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Food for thought: a fresh approach to the world’s hunger crisis

By Pristine Ong

The global financial crisis was a product of the affluent West, but its effects have been felt the hardest in developing countries. Since 2008 the number of undernourished people in the world has risen by 115 million – including more than 30 million in India.

Associate Professor Bill Pritchard, an economic geographer at the University of Sydney, is looking at the reasons behind this food security calamity by collaborating with researchers from Australia and India to survey Indian families and track their diets.

Professor Pritchard believes that the global food crisis can be explained using an approach which focuses on people’s individual circumstances. He says: “Rather than asking how much food is available, we should be asking how people gain access to food.”

Funded by the Australian Research Council, the project gathers data about each person’s body mass index, food intake and occupation. Combined with qualitative questions about satisfaction levels, the research will provide policy-makers with practical insights into people’s food needs.

Professor Pritchard hopes his findings will provide the Indian government with useful information when it drafts new legislation to remedy its hunger crisis. “Through producing research that people can trust,” he says, “we can start to change the world. I’m an internationalist at heart and I believe we can all work together.”

Professor Pritchard was among a delegation of more than 20 academics and researchers from the University of Sydney who visited India this week. Led by Professor John Hearn, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor International, they met with academics from various Indian universities to discuss areas of collaboration.

The visit has strengthened links between the University and its Indian partners. Agreements were signed with Jawaharlal Nehru University and O.P. Jindal Global University which will increase opportunities for dual degree programs as well as professorial and student exchange.

Professor Hearn said: “The University of Sydney shares similar objectives with JNU and O.P. Jindal Global University in research, education and international engagement. These agreements will facilitate our collaborations in research and exchange programs to address both international challenges and our national priorities.”

Enquiries: Richard North, 02 9351 3191,

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