Answering Your Questions

WFP often hears from students interested in learning more about world hunger and our work to fight it. Here are some of the questions we get most frequently and their answers.

1. When and why was WFP created?

In 1961, US Senator George McGovern, then director of the US government’s Food for Peace programme, proposed the idea of creating an experimental programme for multilateral food aid. WFP was created later that year when the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN General Assembly adopted parallel resolutions establishing it on a three-year experimental basis beginning in January 1963. An earthquake in Iran in September 1962, a hurricane in Thailand in October 1962 and the influx of refugees into Algeria sent WFP into operation several months early because food assistance was urgently needed. In 1965, another set of resolutions established WFP on a continuing basis "for as long as multilateral food is found feasible and desirable." Learn more about our history here.

2. What is WFP’s main goal?

WFP’s goal is to eradicate hunger worldwide. That means that every man, woman and child has access to enough food for a healthy life. This also means that all people have consistent food security. For WFP, ensuring this food security can mean supporting communities as they rebuild following natural disaster, or it can mean training farmers in improved agricultural practices so they can meet their own nutritional needs.

3. How does WFP fight hunger, and what has it achieved?

A smiling women holds her cash and voucher cardOn average, WFP reaches 90 million people in 80 countries each year with lifesaving food assistance. With several different programmes, each implemented specific to the needs of the area, WFP both distributes direct food assistance and helps communities become more self-sufficient and resilient.

For example, in emergency situations, like the ongoing crisis in the Central African Republic, direct food distributions may be the best means of food assistance because of extremely high malnutrition rates, a deteriorating economy or widespread displacement. Other situations may offer different opportunities. In some areas, WFP implements cash and voucher programmes where there is food in the marketplace but people cannot afford to buy it. By giving people the means to purchase the food, these programmes boost the economy and allow people to buy the foods they want, when they want. In other areas, WFP implements the Purchase for Progress programme to boost agricultural development for farmers. By teaching farmers new techniques and by being a stable buyer of their produce, WFP is helping them increase their income and improve their resiliency. Learn more about some of our other programmes here.

4. Who are these hungry people that WFP helps?

There are 842 million hungry people in the world, and about 98 percent of whom are in developing countries, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. A majority of the hungry, 75 percent, live in rural areas, primarily in Africa and Asia. Since they are dependent on agriculture for food and employment, they are vulnerable to crisis situations. About half of the world’s hungry come from farming communities that are dependent on lands vulnerable to natural disasters.

Children also make up many of the hungry. An estimated 146 million children are underweight, with up to 17 million born underweight each year. This can be a result of inadequate nutrition of mothers before and during pregnancy. Women are often vulnerable to hunger and poverty. WFP is working to get food to all of those who need it. Learn more about the hungry here.

5. If there is enough food, why are there people hungry?

A child held by her mother eats WFP high energy biscuits in the PhilippinesMany challenges stand in the way of getting food to those who need it. In some cases, people who need food most do not have access to it, or they do not have access to the tools they need to produce it.

Natural disasters like floods and droughts can destroy crops—witness how the Philippines suffered after the typhoon of November 2013. War and displacement can halt food production as people are forced to flee their homes without a means to feed themselves. The unstable prices of food products can also cause hunger because the poorest people are unable to purchase nutritious food on a reliable, consistent basis. Food waste also contributes to hunger because 1.3 billion tons, about one-third of all food produced, is never consumed. Learn more about the causes of hunger here.

6. How is WFP funded?

WFP is entirely funded by voluntary donations both cash and in-kind contributions. This funding comes primarily from governments, with an average of more than 60 governments contributing to WFP projects. Corporations also contribute to WFP with cash, products or services. Individual donors are extremely important in WFP’s operations, whether it be for emergencies, school meals or another programme. Learn more about our funding here.

Of the contributions we receive, 85 percent goes directly towards our operations. Learn more about the allocation of our funding here.

7. How can students help WFP?

Students can play a big role in helping WFP fight hunger. You can start by raising awareness on social media for WFP’s work and by sharing our banners on your website or blog. You can also host a fundraiser at your school or in your community. WFP’s University Pack is a great place to find ideas.

If you would like to donate, you can do so online or offline.

Photos: WFP/Djaounsede Pardon (middle left) and WFP/Marco Frattini (bottom right)