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In July 1986 the Feinstein World Hunger Program faculty at Brown University, directed by geographer Robert Kates, began formulating a conceptual framework for analysing hunger and hunger-related policy making. This "hunger typology" is based on a three-tiered paradigm of hunger causation and consequences that draws on methods of food production/famine research, entitlement theory, and nutrition/nutritional anthropology. The framework brings together the disparate disciplines of political economics, sociology-anthropology, and public health-human biology, and also policy and organizational research. It integrates their approaches and evidence into a single format that allows all to identify "who's hungry" and take steps to prevent and alleviate hunger.
The hunger typology distinguishes among situations of food shortage, food poverty, or food deprivation. At a regional or national level, a food shortage may be due to political, climatic, or other socioeconomic forces. Such food-short or famine conditions can be distinguished from food poverty at the household level, in which people go hungry because they lack the resources to acquire food even when the regional food supply is sufficient. Ultimately, even if households have sufficient resources to command and access food, individuals go hungry if distribution rules militate against their getting an adequate share, if cultural rules of consumption prejudice them from consuming an adequate mix of nutrients, or if individuals are ill and unable to ingest, metabolize, or benefit from the nutrients potentially available. This third context, termed food deprivation, includes situations of malnutrition among the so-called vulnerable groups: infants and young children, pregnant and lactating women, and others who are deprived of food in situations of social powerlessness or illness.
Sara Millman, a sociologist-demographer associated with the World Hunger Program, proposed in 1988 that the United Nations University sponsor a project that would review the evidence for hunger of each category, and offered to prepare a manual reviewing the data. Her student and colleague, Laurie DeRose, also a demographer-sociologist, in 1995 assumed the lead in completing the project. She drew on Millman's initial outline and also her drafts for chapters 1 (the framework), 2 (methods of measurement), and 5 (food deprivation); drafted chapter 4 (food poverty), and wrote chapter 3 (food shortage) with additional assistance from myself. I also wrote the separate chapter on conflict, which highlights its significance as a source of hunger.
The chapters together illustrate the utility of the hunger typology for diagnosing hunger vulnerability of countries, regions, households, and individuals, and also discusses the reliability of the methods used to measure or indicate each type of hunger and its principal causes. Using this framework, it is possible to profile the incidence of different types of hunger in any single location or year, as the World Hunger Program has done in its biannual Hunger Report series. It is also possible to arrive at local or global histories of hunger, as the World Hunger Program did in Hunger in History (Basil Blackwell, 1990), edited by Lucile Newman.
We are very happy to be able to add this volume to our series of publications that use the hunger typology as a framework for scholarly research, policy diagnosis, and practical action to prevent and alleviate hunger.
Alan Shawn Feinstein World Hunger Program
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