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What's The Difference Between Famine And Hunger? A Food FAQ

We asked our readers what they wanted to know about world hunger? So many thoughtful questions came in that we did a roundup of queries about hunger and famine.
When does food aid work? Source: Hanna Barczyk for NPR

Can eating insects help people survive a famine?

Are there new ways to help farmers water their crops when drought strikes?

Isn't the basic hunger problem that there's just not enough food to go around?

Those are some of the tough questions that you submitted in April for our monthly #CuriousGoat series.

We'd asked what you wanted to know about world hunger. You sent in so many good queries that we didn't want to pick just one to answer, as we typically do. So here are some of the best — and our best answers.

The questions have been edited for length and clarity.


What's the difference between hunger and famine? And why should we care about famines? — Anjala Illemassene

"Hunger is a physiological sensation," explains Tufts professor Daniel Maxwell, acting director of the university's Feinstein International Center, based at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. It's brought on by what is formally called "food insecurity," which is just another way of saying a lack of nutritious food on a regular basis.

"Famine is an extreme event leading to widespread death," he says, and it's typically about politics and violence, as much as it is about the overall availability of food.

Hunger exists everywhere

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