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Inadequate Food Distribution Systems

Enough food is produced worldwide to feed all the people in the world (Leathers, p. 133).  However, despite this alarming truth, nearly 1 billion people are suffering from chronic hunger today. There are a wide range of factors that contribute to this problem, but perhaps one of the most significant is poor food distribution.

Figure 1. Amount of Food Produced, How Used and How Much Received. The amount of food calories being produced fulfills and exceeds the minimum amount needed per person. However, because of waste and loss, the amount of food calories available for consumption falls short of that minimum.

Data is from Saving Water: From Field to Fork Curbing Losses and Wastage in the Food Chain by Stockholm International Water Institute (2008), retrieved on Nov 29th 2010 from

The goal of food distribution is not only to connect the producers, such as farmers and fishermen, to consumers, but also to allocate the food accordingly. Challenges arise in deciding how the food will be distributed among the people, who has the power of distribution, and what methods should be used for distribution. The establishment of markets in which producers directly sell their food to consumers is the most traditional method of distribution. However, due to many cases of inefficiency, food is usually transported to a central location and then distributed to outer cities and villages.

Market Image

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Consumers have difficulty purchasing food because of their inability to access markets and/or their inability to afford the costs. On the other end, farmers cannot sell their produce for the similar reasons. Therefore, the main problems with the current distribution system are the lack of markets, the inadequacy of transportation to markets, and the inability to afford the costs of production and consumption.

In our current system of food distribution, the number of markets and ways to access those markets is inadequate. About 16% of the rural populations in developing countries lack convenient access to a market, which typically causes farmers not to sell their crops. In fact, it is estimated that at most 40% of the any crop is marketed and only one-third of farmers sell to markets (World Hunger Series). To increase both farmers’ and consumers’ access to markets, we developed the concept of Mobile Markets, a market on a locomotive that will travel between various rural areas and cities.

In developing nations, transportation is often very limited. There are few high quality roads or railways to transport goods and people to the centralized markets. Transportation routes are expensive and almost exclusively require public funding and public maintenance. Poorly maintained roads are a huge problem in many regions, particularly in rural Africa where the poor roads make an area inaccessible and delay any movement of goods. One issue with transportation is the extremely variable geography and climate in each region. Each type of transportation is more effective in certain areas than in others, so solutions must be formed on a local level by critically examining the geography as well as the available resources of the regions. Some solutions for increasing access to transportation are the Roads in South Asia and South-East Asia and Roads in Sub-Saharan Africa plans.


 Storage Image 

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Another major problem that needs to be addressed is the extent of waste that occurs post-harvest and during transport. Most of the produce is very perishable: it is susceptible to bacteria, insects, and fungus that rot the food and contaminate it with disease, rendering the food inedible. It is estimated that 25%-50% of all food produced is wasted.  In India about 7% annually of grain and 30% of fruit and vegetables produced are wasted due to lack of proper storage systems (Murthy, 2010). Because of the volume of wasted food, a shortage occurs. This shortage severely increases the prices for the consumers, but does not increase the income of farmers that originally sell the crop. Therefore, the incomes of the producers are either stagnant or decreasing, perpetuating the poverty and hunger cycles. To reduce this waste, we propose a solution to increase the storage and the shelf life of the foods as outlined in our Food Storage System

Even with full access to markets, many people cannot buy food because they cannot afford the costs. Consumers cannot purchase enough food to feed themselves and their families due to the lack of purchasing power and low incomes. Many farmers fail to generate an adequate return on their crops, meaning they are unable to earn a sustainable income to pay off their investments. In developed nations, the governments often heavily subsidize the agricultural industry to make it economically viable. However, because of the heavier budget constraints on developing countries, they fail to alleviate this production burden. Therefore, even with a large production of food, rampant hunger still exists because of the inability to purchase it. Our solution to these problems is in the Crop Subsidies page. 

   Poor Infrastucture   

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There is a huge disparity in the world between people with adequate food and those starving or malnourished. We are striving to close this gap and allow everyone to have access to high-quality food in the proper amounts. The root causes of poor distribution include the lack of infrastructure such as markets and transportation routes, unsustainable prices driven by corruption and waste, inefficiency in markets,  and poverty. Our solutions focus on reducing these factors to create a world in which all have access to food at affordable prices. 

Works cited: 

World Food Programme. (2009). World Hunger Series Hunger and Markets. Retrieved November 29, 2010, from,com_docman/task,doc_view/gid,1477/Itemid,98/

Murthy, R. (2010, July 21). India outsources food-waste woes. Asia Times. Retrieved November 29, 2010, from

Leathers, H., & Foster, P. (2009). The world food problem: toward ending undernutrition in the third world. Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc.