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Arya Damodharan
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Novus Editorial

Fighting Global Hunger: Join us at Funds4Food

COVID-19 is causing more people to go hungry. We're honored to sponsor this virtual cap intro event (Jun 15 – Jul 2); proceeds go directly to charities.

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We at Novus are grateful to be part of a digital business that is able to survive, and even thrive during these trying times, as we work to increase investor digitization. That good feeling fades when we consider the toll COVID-19 is taking on the rest of the world: illnesses, death, and economic despair.

Figure 1 – The global poverty rate is measured as the share of the world's population living on less than $1.90 per day. (from worldbank.org)

The World Bank recently stated that COVID-19 is pushing around 40-60 million people into extreme poverty. 

One of the tragic outcomes of economic hardship is an increase in people who experience hunger. Four years ago, 80 million people were suffering from acute food insecurity. For as substantial as that number already is, we are now looking at a future where COVID-19 will make it catastrophically worse, by adding another 130 million within the next year.  

Figure 2 – Geographic breakdown of those pushed into poverty by COVID-19. (from worldbank.org)

A global hunger crisis has already begun in many countries. The largest slum in Kenya’s capital experienced a devastating stampede recently, killing two and injuring many during a recent giveaway of flour and cooking oil. In Columbia, the hungry fly red flags or clothing outside their homes to signal an urgent need for assistance.  

We hear their call. To help alleviate this crisis, Novus has joined the sponsors of Funds4Food, the largest cap intro event in history, whose proceeds will be used to donate to charities dedicated to fighting hunger. This is a fantastic initiative led by incredible thinkers, who are pioneering the transformation of a key industry gathering into its eagerly awaited, digitally native equivalent. (It’s about time!)

From June 15th to July 2nd, institutional allocators and fund managers will engage in one-on-one video meetings to benefit charities aiding people in need globally.

Institutional allocators pledge to participate in meetings with fund managers of their choosing. The more meetings pledged, the more managers registered, the more dollars raised.

220 allocators have committed to accept meetings at the time of writing this, including DUMAC, Hewlett Foundation, John's Hopkins University, Packard Foundation, Princeton University, Rockefeller University, Soros Fund Management, Stanford University, Willett Advisors, and Yale University.

The entire spectrum of fund managers, including long only, hedge, venture, private equity, real estate, private debt, infrastructure, and more, will make donations to participate based on their firm size.

We hope you'll participate with us, and please consider donating regardless at https://f4f.iconnections.io/

COVID-19’s Impact on World Hunger

According to the World Health Organization, “acute food insecurity” is defined as a condition where a person’s inability to consume food endangers their livelihood.  

The World Food Summit of 1996 determined that food security, by contrast, “Exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

Recent impediments to food security have included conflicts and wars in Sub-African countries (such as Nigeria, Yemen, Syria, South Sudan), economic instability related to high debts and currency devaluation in the Asian and American continents, and climate shocks (like hurricanes and droughts) in the southern hemisphere. Food supply shortage has notably not been a concern for global hunger in recent history.

COVID-19’s impact on acute food insecurity doesn’t stem from shortage of food production either. In fact, many countries have food reserves for months or years to come. COVID-19 is instead expected to have a substantial impact on supply chains.  

You see, with people losing their jobs across the globe, there is not only significant decrease to purchasing power, but also an indirect impact to food distribution from point A to point B. With national “shelter-in-place” policies implemented (which we fully support), the frequency of flights carrying people, and in-turn, cargo or commodities is inevitably impacted. Shipping delays have been reported at many ports due to the quarantine measures, causing employee scarcity. Tourism or export-reliant economies are adding to the already long list of those affected. Commercial supply chains are the lifelines of the economy, but are currently not considered essential under lockdown.

Figure 3 – The top affected economies from COVID-19 trade restrictions (from weforum.com)

Besides being stingy donors to these agencies, world economies are exacerbating the problem by enacting export bans and other measures that are counter-productive to restoring a healthy supply chain. We starve our neighbors who we might not rely on for food imports, but likely for other resources. As a result, scared masses will continue to hoard, tempting companies to bump up prices and exploit consumers.

If we hope to avoid catastrophe, governments must pursue more coordinated policies on shutting borders. Even as they prioritize public health goals, governments must also do everything in their power to keep trade routes open and supply chains alive. Systems too must be aligned to ensure that global information on food prices, consumption and stocks flows widely and in real-time.

Of course, waiting on our governments will leave many to suffer in the meanwhile. It is imperative for you and I to do what we can to help those who are experiencing food insecurity today.

Heeding the Call for Aid

Even wealthy countries like the US experience pockets of food insecurity. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 4.3 billion meals were distributed to more than 40 million Americans through a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 pantries, schools, soup kitchens and shelters, according to Feeding America, the national food bank network. With unemployment now hitting 15%, the need for food banks is accelerating.

The disruption to supply chains is felt hardest, or course, by people where purchasing power was close to null pre-crisis. This includes many who were already being fed by programs tracking and delivering food to them (e.g., by the United Nations). For 85 million children in Latin America and the Caribbean alone, school closures mean no more school meals. Which in turn means an end to the only hot meal anyone in the family may be getting each day. This increasing reliance on humanitarian assistance programs has caused many of these programs to run out of money in recent weeks.  

Last year alone, the World Food Program, a United Nations agency, spent $8.5 billion feeding those suffering from acute food insecurity. That was the cost to feed 80 million people. With the world looking at 130 million more people added to the program in the short term, we are now looking at 210+ million people with food insecurity. Do the Food Assistance Programs have the $22bn needed to scale their programs to the vastity of the need out there? Most certainly not. They need our help.

Usually, food crises during recessions have been either demand-driven (inability to pay from the consumer), or supply-driven (in the case of environmental factors like droughts). The current situation is particularly unique because COVID-19 is both a demand and supply side crisis at the same time. Which is why it is crucial we respond before it gets worse.  

I implore those of you who are lucky enough to know where your next meal is coming from to consider ways you can alleviate the suffering of others during this time—whether by attending the upcoming cap intro fund raiser next month, donating to a charity, or helping someone in need directly.

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