The human relationship with food is complex: what we eat, how much we eat, when we eat it and where the food comes from. Hunger is an even more complex element of that relationship. While some people have access to the food they need to survive, many do not. In fact, 805 million people — or 1 in 9 — around the world are undernourished. Here in the United States, there are people in every county who face hunger. One in six Americans are food insecure. As dairy farmers, we are constantly seeking ways to produce high-quality and nutrient-rich food to satisfy hunger — for everyone.
Population growth makes fighting hunger even more difficult. The United Nations estimates that by 2050 there will be approximately 9.6 billion people on Earth. That’s more mouths to feed with the same resources — if not less, as farming land becomes scarcer. So the issue becomes more than just the quantity of food. It’s about providing nutrient-rich foods packed with carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals, water and protein in a sustainable and efficient way.
Protein plays a big part in the fight against hunger. The human body needs protein every day to maintain strength, and it directly impacts the health of muscles, bones, teeth and hair. Protein is a complex chain of amino acids that help build, repair and sustain body tissues. There are 21 amino acids, but the human body only produces 12 of them. The remaining 9 proteins, or essential proteins, must come from food.
When people don’t get enough protein, it affects the body in several ways. Protein provides energy, so people with protein deficiency often feel fatigued when they shouldn’t. They also experience weakness and are slow to recover from injuries because muscles and bones are not being properly fueled. When the body isn’t getting enough protein, it goes into conservation mode and stops spending valuable protein on the production of hair and nails: broken, brittle nails and hair loss are both signs of protein deficiency.
Fortunately, dairy foods provide several essential nutrients, including protein. Milk protein is a complete, high-quality protein that makes it easy for the body to get and use all the amino acids it can’t produce on its own. Other high quality sources of protein include eggs, beef, poultry and fish.
The benefit of milk and other dairy foods is that it’s a highly affordable source of essential nutrients. A gallon of milk contains sixteen 8-ounce servings at a cost of about 25 cents per serving. So for just one quarter, people can get nine essential nutrients including calcium, phosphorus and potassium, along with the A, D, and B12 vitamins. For areas where refrigeration is questionable, milk powder and dairy whey protein become viable options. These shelf-stable dry powders can last up to 18 months and be rehydrated after being stored.
We are constantly working to fight hunger locally and globally, so everyone can have a chance at a better, healthier life. Our efforts include making the dairy industry more sustainable and exceeding the industry’s strict safety standards to ensure we can provide a safe, healthy product for years to come. We have a long road ahead to eliminate hunger, but dairy foods can play an important part as we continue to help feed those who are undernourished — with protein at the forefront.
Hunger Statistics via the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations