Updated: Jun 28
If We Don’t Feed People, We Feed Conflict.
Globally, famine and malnutrition are on the rise.
On May 18, 2022, in New York, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres addressed his peers. He said “If We Don’t Feed People, We Feed Conflict.”
Worldwide, hunger is at an all-time high, doubling from 135 million to 276 million people in just two years. Making matters worse, the war in the Ukraine is amplifying famine and malnutrition.
Financial systems are breaking. The wealth gap is increasing. Inflation is on the rise, disproportionately crushing the working poor and middle-class. Families are having to choose between paying utility bills and eating.
Nearly a quarter of the world population has been hit by extreme weather events from climate volatility. These events are putting additional pressure on incomes and food production.
The global food problem (famine and malnutrition) is not projected to end any time soon.
What do people do when their food supply is threatened? They move to where there may be a more stable food source if they can. They lower food standards, and eat less and less quality nutrition. Or instead of malnutrition, they choose theft and violence to get what they lack.
Compassionate business owners, CEOs, and shareholders may want to assure themselves that this could not and is not happening in their corporations. They may not know that famine and malnutrition are happening right under their noses within their own organizations!
Here's a Canadian study published in October 2021 by Chloe Pineau and four additional scholars. It's entitled “Exploring experiences of food insecurity, shame, stigma, and social exclusion among women in high-income countries,” Shame surrounds people who are on the fringe, unable to consistently feed their families.
It is worth reviewing the abstract.
"In Canada, over 4.4 million people experience food insecurity, a serious public health issue characterized by inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints. Globally, women experience disproportionately high rates of food insecurity, which is a highly stigmatizing experience that is associated with feelings of shame and social isolation. This narrative review explores how and why social beliefs and stigma contribute to social exclusion among women experiencing food insecurity within high-income countries, along with how enhancing the capacity for empathetic responses to feelings of shame, and efforts to strengthen women’s resistance can lead to a reduction in stigma. The thematic analysis of the articles included in this review identified four themes: 1) the mechanisms of food insecurity-related social exclusion; 2) shame, stigma, and social exclusion associated with the use of charitable food programs; 3) women’s experiences with food insecurity, shame, stigma, and social exclusion; and 4) empathy, shame resilience, and resistance."
Beyond shame in adults, however, is a greater likelihood of poor mental health, especially among youth, and suicide. , as a result of famine and malnutrition.
Let's look through the lens of quality nutrition and its effects on mental health and stability in any workforce. Combine that with a greater likelihood that a person has too much shame to share what a challenge it is to put bread on their table. Employers dealing with a disgruntled workforce may look to food security as part of their solution.
Food insecurity or even the threat of it, either from famine or malnutrition, can be present but may be unknown to those who can do something about it. Corporation leaders fall into this category. What happens when additional forces such as emergencies, disasters, and other potential hazards arrive and add further stress to the families of your employees? How will an ill-prepared organization respond to support their staff, and what can we expect from the workforce?
Maslow said that most people tend to follow the path of a hierarchy of needs when a disaster or emergency strikes. At the bottom level of this pyramid are the most basic physiological needs. The need for food and water. He said that until these needs have been met, people will not move up the pyramid. This implies that if a leader wants to help their staff to get to the levels where they can be motivated to produce good work for the organization, they have to ensure that they have done all they can to ensure that their staff and their families have had these basic needs met. Famine and malnutrition can cause even stable workforces to collapse and their motivations to slide down the pyramid until their behavior is governed by the basic need for food and water.
It does not cost much to ensure that you have long life food supplies to ensure that you can rescue staff who have had their food supplies threatened and keep them operating at an effective level of motivation to keep your business going. Why would you risk your workforce not being able to feed themselves or their families?