While the estimated number of hungry worldwide in 2006 hovered near the 1970 level of about 875,000 people (there was a significant dip from the 1970 to the mid-1990s, but then a rebound), the number of hungry has skyrocketed in recent years to more than 1 billion, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
The reason for this uptick? Again according to the FAO, rising commodity and food prices between 2006 and 2008 that resulted in food crises in several developing countries, followed closely by the global economic meltdown.
**Side note for future discussion: What is the difference between "chronically hungry," "malnourished" and "undernourished"? The FAO seems to use them all interchangeably, in a report about that claims to look at "food insecurity."