By Sandy K. Johnson

The definition of chronic hunger: Every day you have to worry about whether you will eat.

A combined 20 million people are on the brink of starvation from famine in four countries: South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and Nigeria.

“Famine is a word that has been carefully defined by the world community. It means people are literally on the brink of starvation. There is very little attention in the U.S. community to the fact that people are starving at these rates,” Arlene Mitchell, executive director of the Global Child Nutrition Foundation, told National Press Foundation fellows.

Food shortages and hunger lead to violence in circumstances where the struggle is life or death. “Food is a weapon of war,” she said.

Developing nations have transportation and distribution problems, too.

“Fresh produce rots before getting to markets that are just a few miles away,” she said. And that’s despite the millions spent on building and maintaining roads, trucks, trains, ships and plane systems.

Ag trends also contribute to the hunger issue. Big Agriculture tends to push grains, which are high in calories and low in nutrition, a situation that can lead to malnutrition.

“Our response to word hunger is generally in bulk commodities” such as soybeans, which are exported from U.S. farmers, Mitchell said. Still, Mitchell said she is neutral on the subject of GMOs – not all organics are good, and not all GMOs are bad.