Feed A Billion Blog

The Russia-Ukraine War and Global Food Security

From CSIS April 15, 2022 Update

Wars have disrupted agriculture throughout history. But the nature of Russia’s war in Ukraine—a war between two agricultural production powerhouses, in the context of globalized agricultural markets—presents never-before-seen consequences for global agriculture and food security. The contours of these consequences are clear: exports from Ukraine have stalled, future harvests are in question, global prices of agriculture commodities have spiked, and most exposed are the countries that rely on agricultural exports from Ukraine and Russia to feed their citizens or fertilizer from Russia and Belarus to produce their own food. What can we expect in the coming months? What can be done to stave off the worst effects—for Ukraine and the world?

Q1: What is new about this global food crisis?

A1: Global agricultural markets have endured supply-side shocks and price spikes before. In 2007 and 2008, concurrent droughts in multiple food-exporting countries, food export bans by many more, and high energy prices caused the nominal price of food to double between 2002 and 2008, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Global undernourishment may have reached a 15-year high in 2020 due to the continued effects of climate change and regional conflict, on top of the economic and supply chain shocks of Covid-19.

Two elements of today’s agriculture market disruptions are new: First, the war is disrupting markets for final agricultural products and agricultural inputs at the same time. Agricultural products like wheat and oilseeds are ingredients for staple foods like bread and cooking oil, which are primary sources of calories for millions of people around the world. The implication of fertilizer in today’s market disruptions limits options for responses by wealthy countries as well as low- and middle-income countries.

Second, these agriculture-market disruptions are wholly avoidable, due to a war of aggression and intentional attacks on agriculture infrastructure. By targeting all aspects of Ukraine’s agriculture—fields, farm equipment, warehouses, markets, roads, bridges, and ports—Russia intends to cripple Ukraine’s agricultural economy, thereby cutting off a major source of Ukraine’s income. In 2020, agriculture contributed over 9 percent of Ukraine’s GDP, according to the International Trade Administration. The high prices of fertilizer and fuel further limit farmers’ productivity, and precarity of labor in wartime could further limit output.

Q2: What has happened so far? What can we expect in the medium term?

A2: Released last week, the FAO’s Food Price Index for March 2022 made “a giant leap to a new highest level,” up 12.6 percent since February 2022, marking two consecutive months of record-high levels. In March, record highs were hit for the FAO’s Cereal Price Index (up over 17 percent since February), Vegetable Oil Price Index (up over 23 percent since February), and Meat Price Index (up nearly 5 percent since February). In early March, Chicago futures for wheat soared 40 percent in one week, reaching the highest levels since 2008. Ukraine supplies nearly half of sunflower oil exports worldwide, and in March, the global price of sunflower oil reached a record high, as did global prices of rapeseed (canola) oil, soybean oil, and palm oil. Prices for ammonia, nitrogen, nitrates, phosphates, potash, and sulphates, which constitute the global fertilizer market, are up 30 percent since January.

In its latest World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates report, also released last week, USDA lowered projected global wheat trade by 3 million tons, estimating 1 million fewer tons of exports from Ukraine (and 1 million more tons of exports from Russia, which the United States has exempted from comprehensive sanctions). USDA’s estimates pertain to last year’s harvests, as most of Ukraine’s exports shipped prior to Russia’s invasion, and not yet to future harvests. In March, Ukraine’s Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food announced the result of a survey of approximately 2,500 farmers nationwide, who reported significant gaps in seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, and equipment required for crop cultivation and harvest. This will impact winter crops that were planted in 2021 for harvest in summer 2022: the FAO predicts that due to the war, between 20 and 30 percent of winter crop acreage will not be harvested, and that farmers will reap lower yields from acreage they can harvest. Neither USDA nor the FAO have yet estimated the impact of the war on global export from Ukraine’s next winter crops, set to be planted in 2022 for harvest in 2023.

Food price increases due to the Russia-Ukraine war are jeopardizing food security around the world. According to the FAO, 26 countries rely on Ukraine and Russia for at least 50 percent of their wheat imports. These include countries in Africa’s Sahel region, where 6 million children are malnourished and 16 million people in urban areas are at risk of food insecurity, according to the UN World Food Program (WFP). The WFP also recently noted the vulnerability of countries in East Africa, which also rely on imports from Ukraine and Russia, and are experiencing the effects of conflict and severe drought. UNICEF emphasizes the vulnerability of children in the Middle East and North Africa, where countries import more than 90 percent of food they consume, and the majority of children do not have access to adequate nutrition.

Thanksgiving 2021

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We’re developing a new way to fight food insecurity by delivering necessary nutrients for girls in a single serving.

Every day, we are working to reach the one in four girls around the world who do not know where their next meal will come from.

As part of our mission to prevent exploitation of girls in need by providing nutritious meals, we have partnered with Blendhub to move the needle in addressing food insecurity across the communities we serve.

The answer: Developing a high-quality source of well-balanced macro and micronutrients that is specially formulated for developing girls, is easy to prepare and can be distributed to schools across continents. The nutritious shake:

  • Contains dairy proteins and high fiber content.
  • Is diluted in water or milk without the use of a blender.
  • Comes in original (almond), vanilla, and chocolate flavors.
  • Is divided into three age categories and modified to reflect the nutrients required for girls at every stage of life.

In India, we have found that hot meals are more likely to be taken away from young girls than protein powder shakes. Our nutrient-based shakes give girls an equal opportunity to receive the same nutrients in a day as boys.

In the U.S., our goal is to supplement low quality and high cost school meals, which cause many children to lack the proper nutrients they need to perform at school and develop their brains and bodies.

With this work, we now have a new way to provide girls around the world with the adequate nutrients needed to live and flourish.


Executive Director Letter

Dear Feed A Billion Family,

I am honored and excited to have joined Feed A Billion as the Executive Director at the beginning of 2021. It’s been a rewarding six months that has underscored the purpose and mission of our organization to provide girls around the world with the nutrients they need to survive and thrive.

As our founder, AJ, stated at the close of 2020, “The impact of food insecurity isn’t equal. It disproportionately affects girls and the decisions that families make for girls. Each day that families are faced with difficult decisions about how to provide nutrition for their children, young girls are asked to leave school, sent away to work, and married at very young ages into other families. The impact of which diminishes her education, opportunities, and almost certainly locks her into a cycle of poverty throughout her life.”

There is no denying 2020 was an incredibly challenging year. We saw poverty and food insecurity increase in almost every community around the globe. The pandemic estimated to have undone a decade’s worth of work to provide more nutritious feed to those who are food insecure. And sadly, women and girls continued to be unduly affected by hunger.

As such, maintaining nutritional supplies in the U.S., India and Africa meant meeting unpredictable challenges – an exponentially growing need for food coupled with disrupted supply chains and distribution.

I’m so proud of what Feed A Billion was able to accomplish under stress, and I owe a huge thank you to the organization’s Board of Directors, committed volunteers, and partners for carrying the torch and making this transition seamless. I’m also thankful to our partners who have stayed the course fighting exploitation, poverty and inequality tirelessly.

The commitment and support from those at Feed A Billion inspired me to step into this new role without hesitation. In addition, over the past decade, I have been dedicated to advocating, educating and working on causes like those at Feed A Billion, seeking to assist the most vulnerable in our communities. The work at Feed A Billion aligns with my personal values, as I believe there is no greater purpose or investment in any community than efforts to protect and nurture girls. Every girl deserves the right to an education, safety and security, and the opportunity to live up to her full potential.

Thus, I envision a 2021 (and beyond) where Feed A Billion grows our reach, our distribution, and our advocacy. With a focus on public-private partnerships, I intend to expand our life-saving food and nutrient distribution to girls in other communities, cities, and countries. Through education and advocacy efforts, including our inaugural NouriSHE Summit coming in September 2021, I also aim to move beyond the distribution of nutritious meals and shakes to create self-reliant and sustainable models in the communities we work in. By becoming a connector and leveraging our global and local partners, we can share lessons learned and models that work.

At this writing, one in four children do not know where all their meals will come from this week. And with millions of families forced into poverty every day, our energy and expertise can literally save our most vulnerable – girls – from early marriage, missed school, forced labor, and many other forms of exploitation. By growing Feed A Billion’s impact, we can provide the proper nutrients to ensure girls can stay where they belong: safe, secure and educated.

Thank you all for your continued support to make the world healthier and more equitable, with a focus on the girls that will get us there.

With sincere gratitude,

Nicole F. Roberts

End Of Year Letter From Our Founder

Dear Friends,

This time one year ago, we could never have predicted the changes we’d experience in our daily lives, nor the focus 2020 would bring us. Forcing us to revisit our priorities, our passions, and our purpose.

For me, and Feed A Billion, 2020 has been a year of deep clarity. Our mission to feed those most in need took on a new meaning, new direction, and grew exponentially due to the global pandemic. In fact, as I write this, it’s estimated that nearly one in four households does not know where all their meals will come from this week.

But the impact of food insecurity isn’t equal. It disproportionately affects girls, and the decisions that families make for girls. Each day that families are faced with difficult decisions about how to provide nutrition for their children, young girls are asked to leave school, sent away to work, and married at very young ages into other families. The impact of which diminishes her education, opportunities, and almost certainly locks her into a cycle of poverty throughout her life.

I am proud of Feed A Billion’s volunteers and partners – who have stayed the course, pivoted when needed, and worked to ensure that to prevent exploitation, girls around the world are fed. By feeding girls, we are collectively improving lives, human rights and equality, and economies in communities globally.

This past year we have provided more than 40,000 pounds of food to those in need in the city of Atlanta, as well as continued projects in both India and Kenya. In India, we were delighted to celebrate the graduation of nine girls – the first nine – from the YUWA School that we helped to nourish. In Kenya, one kitchen was able to feed 400 students, every day, bringing us to a total of more than 6 million meals provided. Feats that were accomplished because we believe in letting local partners lead the way.

These accomplishments bring us great pride, not only because we are providing food to those in need, but because we know the long-term impact of preventing exploitation will change not only each life, but the world.

In 2020, the process of narrowing Feed A Billion’s mission has not minimized the scope or scale of the problem we are facing. Food insecurity is at its highest point in decades, and due to the Covid-19 pandemic it’s estimated that at least a decade of work has been undone to alleviate poverty and access to food. Thus, by directing our energy and expertise on the world’s most vulnerable, we are having the most impact.

2021 is going to be a tough year for those living in poverty. And girls will continue to be disproportionately affected by hunger. It is our goal to not only maintain, but grow our reach and distribution throughout the year. With you help, Feed A Billion intends to expand our life-saving food distribution to girls in other communities, cities, and countries.

I envision a 2021 – and beyond – where Feed A Billion not only partners and coordinates for the distribution of nutritious meals and shakes, but that those we partner with become self-reliant. And further, that we are able to reach beyond preventing exploitation of girls on our own, and begin to help other human trafficking and food programs connect, coordinate, and share resources in ways that expand the collective efforts to help girls live up to their full potential.

Food is love. And there is a lot more love to share in 2021.

Please look for some big announcements and share our work as the new year begins. You have helped us get this far, but the need to feed girls at home and around the world has never been higher.

I wish you all the very best for a festive season, and a happy, healthy and better New Year.

With sincere gratitude,

Ambuj (AJ) Jain

UN's Development Goals Become More Important During Pandemic

Feed A Billion directly addresses two SDGs and supports another six - helping to end poverty and promote equity in the decade to come.

How FAB Meets UN SDGs

AJ’s Story: More Than A Meal

…the look in her eyes, I saw such gratitude and love.


The concept of Feed A Billion came to me after I delivered food with a nonprofit in Atlanta. I delivered meals to many families that day, but one woman changed my life forever. She was an elderly woman who lived in an area of Atlanta known as Bankhead.

When I saw her, I could tell she lived with fear. She had bars on the windows and doors and two large dogs to protect her. And when she came to get the food from me she didn’t say a word. She just looked at me with such extreme gratitude.

Without this food, she couldn’t eat, she wouldn’t be able to take necessary medications, and she wouldn’t be able to live a full life. This food was a necessity for her to survive, and in the look on her face, and the look in her eyes, I saw such gratitude and love.

That’s when I knew that my calling was to give meals to many and began a journey to understand how food impacts lives – particularly in women and girls. Yet, it touched me at such a deep level there was also difficulty processing exactly what that meant.

Feed A Billion was started in 2016, and has had the amazing opportunity to provide millions of meals globally. But there is still a long way to go to reach our goal of preventing exploitation of girls by providing food to those in need.

To be honest, I’m still scared, but I will never forget the look in that woman’s eyes, and that moment of change drives me to keep pushing, keep giving, and keep pursuing the end to hunger.

Together, I know we can do it!

Deepest regards,

AJ Jain

If you feel inclined, please join us on our mission.
Even $10 a month changes the life of a person in need.

A Story of Hunger and Desperation

Maria was just a young girl when she was told she needed to contribute to the family by bringing in money whatever way she could.

In the life of poverty, this meant her mother would sell her to friends and family. Now Maria is using those painful experiences to tell a story, a story that is not just hers, but also one of 300,000 children in the United States who are victims of child sex trafficking. 

Maria was born in California to immigrants from Mexico. Both of her parents were field workers, until her mother was poisoned from pesticides. Living on one, small income, with 3 children was difficult and her mother turned to a life she knew, making decisions out of desperation. She began prostituting her daughter, starting at a time Maria was too young to remember and stopped when she was around 11 years old, after years of abuse. 

“My sister and I - we were sold. And my brother had to go work in the fields when he was very young… We all had to bring money in.”

Maria said of her family’s situation, “It was scary… You really don’t have a childhood in poverty. Not only are you having to worry about… whether you are going to eat or not- because that is in your awareness- but for me it was also making sure that we brought money in one way or another.”

Food was massively scarce and there were many times when the whole family went to bed hungry. If they did receive food, it was because a neighbor who worked for a local grocery store would give it to them when it had been disposed of in the trash or because her father would hunt, in the hopes of killing a rabbit or maybe a deer.

“As a child you don’t have choices. You are wherever it is that you are put. And you suffer the consequences of the choices your parents have made.”

“When you are in survival mode,” Maria said, “you're making decisions like, how am I going to keep [the money I do have] or how am I going to get my next dollar to eat? And for a long time, I’ve had a very deep rooted fear of not having money for food. Even when I've had a very healthy amount of money in my account, there's still that fear of running out and not having food... You can’t really make wise decisions based off of that.”

Maria found herself in abusive relationships, making decisions based in scarcity and fear. “Even in my language,” she noted, “as a young adult- even in my 30s- I would say things in my mind like, ‘well, if I ever have to sell myself…’ I would leave it in the realm of my possibility… that world- it's what you know and it's what you feel that you are worthy of.“

Poverty and hunger are heavily tied to a mindset of desperation and in that mindset it is nearly impossible to see your true self worth. When you’re trying to find your next meal, or to feed your children, you are in survival mode, which often means you do what you feel you have to do.

“If that’s what you have to do to eat, if that's what you have to do to survive, you just do. There is no option, there is no its wrong or it's bad, you have to do what needs to be done.”

Maria is now is a consultant and entrepreneur and sees her mission as helping children avoid the pain she was put in so very young. She feels it is important to address the “cause root of what is happening” and believes that by providing vital necessities, like food, we can save more children from desperate situations like sex trafficking.

Causes of Starvation, Hunger, and Food Insecurity

1. Poverty
Poverty and hunger exist in a vicious cycle. Families living in poverty usually can’t afford nutritious food, leading to undernourishment. In turn, undernourishment makes it difficult for people to earn more money so that they can afford healthy food. Families living in poverty might also sell off their livestock or tools to supplement their income. This buys short-term relief but perpetuates a longer-term pattern of hunger and poverty that is often passed down from parents to children. 

2. Food Shortages
Across Africa, including regions like the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, farming families experience periods before harvests known as “hungry seasons.” These are the times of the year when food supplies from the previous harvest are exhausted, but the chance to replenish supplies is still some time off. This leaves families forced to skip one (or more) meals each day in the period before the next harvest – which could be months away. 

3. War and Conflict
War and conflict are also among the leading contributors to world hunger. In South Sudan, Civil War has led to mass displacement and abandonment of fields. The result is crop failure which, combined with a soaring inflation rate that makes imported goods unaffordable, has left six million people food insecure. Likewise, Yemen’s ongoing conflict has led to over half the country (approximately 17 million people) in need of urgent action in the absence of ongoing humanitarian food assistance.

4. Climate Change
Countries like Zambia enjoy relative peace and political stability. However, they are also plagued by hunger due to climate extremes. Too much, or too little, rainfall can destroy Harvest or reduce the amount of animal pasture available. These fluctuations are made worse by the El Nino weather system and are likely to increase due to changes in climate. Extreme climate patterns also tend to affect the poorest regions of the world the most. The World Bank estimates that climate change has the power to push more than 100 million people into poverty over the next decade.

5. Poor nutrition
Hunger isn’t simply a lack of access to food it’s a lack of access to the right nutrients. To thrive, humans need a range of foods providing a variety of essential health benefits. Poor families often rely on just one or two staple foods, like corn or wheat, which means they’re not getting enough critical macronutrients and vitamins, and may still suffer the effects of hunger.

A lack of nutrition is especially important for pregnant and breastfeeding women and young children: nutrition support during pregnancy and up to the age of 5 can help protect children for their entire lives. Proper nutrition reduces the likelihood of disease, poor health, and cognitive impairment.

6. Poor Public Policy
Systemic problems, like poor infrastructure or low investment in agriculture, often prevent food and water from reaching the world populations that need them most.

7. Economy
Much like the poverty-hunger cycle, a country’s economic resilience has a direct effect on its nutritional resilience. For example, Liberia’s overall economic troubles deep and after the Ebola outbreak in 2014. 5 years later 50% live below the poverty line. Working towards economic stability overall will have a ripple effect on other causes of World Hunger sided on this list.

8. Food Waste
According to the World Food Programme, one-third of all food produced – over 1.3 billion tons of it Dash is never consumed. What’s more, producing this wasted food also uses other natural resources that, when threatened, have a ripple effect in the countries that are already hit hardest by hunger, poverty, and climate change. Producing this wasted food requires an amount of water equal to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River – and adds 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

9. Gender Inequality
In its Sustainable Development Goal 2, the UN reveals: “if women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.” Female farmers are responsible for growing, harvesting, preparing, and selling the majority of food in poor countries. Women are on the front lines of the fight against hunger, yet there frequently under-represented at the forums where important decisions on policy and resources are made

10. Forced Migration
Beyond war and conflict, several factors contribute to the causes of forced migration. This includes hunger, but forced migration can also be a cause of hunger. Many refugees living abroad live in neighboring countries with limited resources to begin with. In Lebanon, for example, nearly a third of the population are refugees placing a huge strain on resources.

This information was found on the website: https://www.concernusa.org/story/top-causes-world-hunger/
Feed a Billion does not take credit for this article, we are sharing with the purpose to inform more people of the causes of starvation, hunger, and food insecurity.

With over 800 million people facing food insecurity every day, the challenge of hunger eradication is massive. In Jharkhand, we’ve chosen to focus on mitigating the effects of Poverty, Poor Nutrition, Poor Public Policy, and Gender Inequality.