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The Atlas of World Hunger

Earlier this year, President Obama declared one of his top priorities to be “making sure that people are able to get enough to eat.” The United States spends about five billion dollars on food aid and related programs each year, but still, both domestically and internationally, millions of people are hungry. In 2006, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations counted 850 million hungry people worldwide, but as food prices soared, an additional 100 million or more who were vulnerable succumbed to food insecurity.

If hunger were simply a matter of food production, no one would go without. There is more than enough food produced annually to provide every living person with a healthy diet, yet so many suffer from food shortages, unsafe water, and malnutrition every year. That’s because hunger is a complex political, economic, and ecological phenomenon. The interplay of these forces produces a geography of hunger that Thomas J. Bassett and Alex Winter-Nelson illuminate in this empowering book. The Atlas of World Hunger uses a conceptual framework informed by geography and agricultural economics to present a hunger index that combines food availability, household access, and nutritional outcomes into a single tool—one that delivers a fuller understanding of the scope of global hunger, its underlying mechanisms, and the ways in which the goals for ending hunger can be achieved. The first depiction of the geography of hunger worldwide, the Atlas will be an important resource for teachers, students, and anyone else interested in understanding the geography and causes of hunger. This knowledge, the authors argue, is a critical first step toward eliminating unnecessary suffering in a world of plenty.

See sample pages (PDF format, 0.8Mb).

216 pages | 47 halftones, 3 line drawings, 103 color plates, 35 tables | 8 1/2 x 11 | © 2010

Earth Sciences: General Earth Sciences

Economics and Business: Health Economics

Geography: Economic Geography, Geography--Reference


The Atlas of World Hunger paints a comprehensive picture of hunger in our time. Bassett and Winter-Nelson thoroughly examine the roots of hunger and poverty and incontrovertibly show their association. By devising a new scale to measure hunger vulnerability and by naming the multiple causes of hunger and poverty around the globe, from local to international levels, the Atlas provides an outline for solutions that will reduce the roster of hungry people from one billion today to zero as soon as possible.”

Paul Farmer, MD, PhD, cofounder of Partners In Health

“The Atlas of World Hunger could not come at a more propitious moment, when progress toward the goal of reducing hunger at the global scale has lurched into reverse, with a growing proportion of the world population unable to secure adequate food. Thomas Bassett and Alex Winter-Nelson have produced a sophisticated yet accessible volume, sacrificing neither complexity nor legibility, to provide a nuanced and powerful account of the political, economic, and social processes that shape people’s ability to escape chronic hunger.  Deploying maps not merely to illustrate the geographic patterns of hunger but also to interrogate the root causes, they rule out simple explanations such as population growth while finding strong correlations among such factors as gender equality and literacy.  The Atlas will serve as an enduring reference and resource for library collections, of course, but also for countless university courses in development, agriculture, and food.”—Gail Hollander, Florida International University

Gail Hollander, Florida International University

The Atlas of World Hunger has accomplished something of exceptional importance. By combining innovative cartography with critical social science, Bassett and Winter-Nelson have exploded many of the myths surrounding the persistence of hunger and provided in turn a complex, nuanced picture of the relations between social vulnerability, poverty, and food insecurity. The Atlas has extraordinary insights at a variety of geographical scales—from the household to the nation, from the region to the globe—analyzing factors that range from food insecurity in northern California, to obesity in Albania, to child growth failure in Uruguay. Mass hunger and chronic food insecurity continue to flourish despite the purported successes of neoliberal growth policies and global commitments to the Millennium Development Goals. Bassett and Winter-Nelson have provided a graphic account of why this is so, and what to do about it. A magnificent achievement.”

Michael Watts, Class of 1963 Professor of Geography and Development Studies, University of California, Berkeley

“[Bassett and Winter-Nelson] have produced the first global atlas of hunger while at the same time devising an innovative metric for world hunger that yields a surprising and thought-provoking new way to look at data on world hunger.—National Catholic Reporter

Julien Carriere | National Catholic Reporter

“Thomas Bassett and Alex Winter-Nelson document the geography of hunger in a volume that provides a new tool for scholars and policymakers and a clear, vivid, accessible account of global poverty and hunger for students and an enquiring general public. . . . Africa’s extreme vulnerability to hunger, and the reasons for it, are vividly portrayed in the volume’s eighty-two maps, its informative tables and graphs, and the text, which is lucid and nuanced. Bassett’s deep knowledge of African political ecology, and Winter-Nelson’s work on African agricultural economics are evident in the analysis, the illustrations, and clear, engaging explanations of such topics as the origins of African debt, the effect of U.S. agricultural subsidies on West African cotton farmers, malaria,
HIV/AIDS, and why supporting the purchasing power of the poor is a more effective intervention than food price controls.”

Holly Hanson | African Studies Review

Table of Contents

List of Maps
List of Figures
List of Tables 
List of Boxes


      1. Introduction

Part I. Locating Hunger

Indicators of Malnutrition

      2. Food Availability
      3. Prevalence of Undernourishment (POU)
      4. Micronutrient Malnutrition 
      5. Malnutrition and Obesity
      6. Growth Failure   
      7. Household Poverty 
      8. The Hunger Vulnerability Index 

Patterns of Hunger within Countries     

      9. Child Growth Failure in Uruguay     
      10. Food Insecurity in the United States
      11. Malnutrition within India and Mexico 

Part II. The Sources of Hunger  

National Resources 

      12. Population Growth  
      13. Arable Land per Capita 
      14. Environmental Systems Health
      15. Human Resources: Literacy 
      16. Built Resources: Roads 
      17. Change in Resource Base   
      18. Climate Change   


      19. College and University Enrollment and Research and Development 
      20. Agricultural Technology: Fertilizer   

Institutions and Power Relations  

      21. Colonialism and Neocolonialism  
      22. Debt and International Power Relations 
      23. Political Freedoms 
      24. Income Inequality  
      25. Gender Inequality 


      26. National Income per Capita 
      27. Extreme Poverty   

Exacerbating Conditions and Events   

      28. Dependency Ratio 
      29. HIV/AIDS 
      30. Malaria
      31. Health Expenditures per Capita    
      32. Unsafe Water and Poor Sanitation 
      33. International Trade and Primary Products   
      34. International Terms of Trade   
      35. Terms-of-Trade Shocks 
      36. Food Trade  
      37. Food Price Shocks 
      38. Development Aid and Food Aid  
      39. War 
      40. Natural Disasters 


Appendix 1. Map Data Sources 
Appendix 2. The Hunger Vulnerability Index 


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