Ending world hunger. Seems like a daunting task. It’s often used as a joke. Right up with rocket science and brain surgery. And today the challenge is growing. The number of people trapped by hunger is up from 795 million to 815 million people globally. One in 3 get the wrong nutrition from malnutrition to obesity.
But it’s not an impossible task. When you look to a few simple fundamentals and real examples, it is possible. We truly can achieve global food security by 2050. This is part of a personal calling for me and many of our Elanco team members. But our path towards increasing food security is not improving like it should be. It’s troubling. If we don’t make a few fundamental changes, a food secure world by 2050 could be very challenging.
How do we thwart hunger? World Hunger Day was Monday, May 28. Its mission calls for breaking the cycle of hunger through sustainable models by empowering people. The day provided an opportunity for me to reflect back to some of the best thought leaders, articles, examples and personal learnings that made this such a big part of my purpose and Elanco’s mission.
Food relief, while important and needed in acute situations, won’t solve the long-term need. Creating sustained food security will. Too often, we simply offer relief vs revitalization. This is at the heart of lawmakers’ battle over the next farm bill, which is increasingly a supplemental nutrition bill at its core. SNAP and food banks are important for short-term solutions. More effort needs to be made to transition people from acute relief to long-term options that put families back on their feet and in control of their future.
We can break the cycle of hunger by focusing on six key principles.
- It must start with a fundamental mindset shift in how we address the issue. Sustainable food security is not built on donations, grants and government, but on investment. Relief is needed and critical at times of crisis, but we need to begin to immediately seek ways to transition people to a self-sustained, food secure life. Each food relief program should have a transition path for recipients to reach sustained food security within a year.
- It requires collaboration. We must bring private, public/NGOs, and governments together. Each segment brings unique capabilities the others require to truly achieve sustainability. Each segment has their strengths – the art is to drop the guard and create synergies. This is where real value is created. The common thread across all segments: each have a deep passion to create a more sustainable model that brings back dignity with food becoming a non-issue.
- The right innovation and systems must be in place. It requires strong processes and individualized training to meet exact needs. We must allow innovation – from ideas to products suited for the local area and need. All challenges through history have been solved with innovation.
- It must create sustained value. Let me repeat, it must create value. It must be measureable, and it must be sustainable long-term without continued donation, grants or government dependence.
- Ultimately, any solution has to be measured by its ability to change lives. Successful efforts will improve nutrition and diets, increase incomes, improve education and most importantly, lift human dignity.
- Finally, it must be something that can be replicated to the next individual, farmer or community. Repetition is usually more about discipline than the true ability to replicate. Human nature gravitates toward starting more than finishing and replicating.
What if we could “break the CYCLE” hunger for one community? For one family? For one child?
When I say break the cycle, I mean truly end the continuous circle of limited nutrition, which leads to health problems, which can restrict the ability to work and further constrains the availability of quality nutrition. It takes the challenge of food security entirely off the table so that families can divert their energy from struggling through the mental, physical, emotional, and financial aspects of hunger to instead focus on how to live a full life. At Elanco, we’re working to break the cycle of hunger for 100 communities around the world for at least a year to allow change to happen. We’ve impacted more than 800,000 families on this journey. Not all were perfect, and we’ve learned a great deal along the way. But they did prove that when groups collaborate toward a common vision, change can happen.
Sustainable, hunger-ending models put families on the path to long-term food security.
Here are three examples of self-sustaining models that have touched me personally:
- Heifer International. In 2018, Elanco and Heifer celebrate 10 years of working together to create a more food secure world. In a decade, we’ve changed the lives of 160,000 families through the gift of more than 35,000 animals and training to improve nutrition, health and animal husbandry. Our work has shown the gift of livestock improves food security, adds protein and diversity to the diet, grows income, increases education spending, and reduces the potential of poverty for participating families.
In recognition of this anniversary and last week’s World Hunger Day, we created a matching gift initiative raising more than $10,000 to invest in 100 small-holder farm families in Cambodia. It will provide fish fingerlings, supplies and training to establish aquaculture production that will create food security and change lives.
Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.
- HATCH. Hatch is a new kind of non-profit organization. One that uses eggs to provide protein for those in need – while simultaneously providing measurable value to everyone involved. To solve food security in America, we need a more viable plan; one that benefits everyone involved. That’s why HATCH has re-imagined the traditional non-profit model. Here’s how it works:
Egg producers donate fresh eggs to HATCH that otherwise would have been difficult to sell – smaller sized, limited demand, etc.— and receive the tax benefit value of the donation. HATCH coordinates the logistics and refrigerated transport of eggs from farm to the food pantry. Other members of the food chain, such as retailers and restaurants, make contributions to HATCH for their local food pantries to receive eggs. They then gain the promotional benefits of HATCH through campaigns that drive store traffic and brand marketing. Finally, food pantries get access to lower cost, large volumes of eggs delivered direct. Today, Hatch provides about 25,000 dozen eggs per month to food banks across the US, with a vision to reach 100,000 families every week without a dependency on donations or grants. Every member of the chain gains value and HATCH enables this value in a donation-free way.
- Grace Care Center. This Indianapolis-based initiative near my home does more than meet the immediate food and clothing needs of families. Grace Care Center creates the environment of a grocery store, comes alongside the families to help parents find jobs, enable transportation and address the root problems that resulted in food insecurity – all to create an experience and ultimately sustain dignity. Their key metric is help people “graduate,” putting them into a more secure life. It taps the power of volunteerism and personal connections to serve 600 families each week with a goal of doubling in the next year. The entire program is designed to honor the dignity of each person that walks through the door to enable them to unleash their potential long term.
Ending world hunger doesn’t have to be a daunting task. It is possible. I’m hopeful these tangible examples of models that work can bring a much-needed mindset shift – from donation to investment, from food relief to sustained food security.
About the author: Jeff Simmons serves as president of Elanco, the animal health division of Eli Lilly and Company, (NYSE: LLY). In his nearly 30 years with the company, Simmons has held an array of roles in locations around the world that provided him a new perspective on food, agriculture and companionship, sparking a deep conviction for finding solutions to achieve global food security. For more, you can follow Jeff on Twitter: @JeffSimmons2050.