One in nine people in the world – approximately 800 million – are hungry. Most of them are small-shareholder farmers and urban poor living in developing countries and often living on less than $2 a day.

This number will likely grow as the world grows. By 2050 the global population is expected to increase 28 percent, reaching almost 10 billion people. And, for the first time in history, slightly more than half of all people live in cities rather than rural areas, with urban populations rising at much higher rates across Asia and Africa.

If we struggle to sufficiently feed the population in 2016, how are we supposed to nutritiously feed an additional 2.1 billion people in 2050 given the mounting challenges of a changing climate, water scarcity, infrastructure deficits, and land pressures? What can we do to ensure that already stressed supply chains can handle the kinds of pressures that will be placed on them over the next 35 years? Some progress has been made in recent years. Several nations have increased their contributions to humanitarian efforts, to the point where the level of deep poverty has actually fallen in certain parts of the developing world. However, the current refugee crisis has created a humanitarian nightmare not seen since the end of World War II.

The U.S. response is especially important considering the scale of this crisis, and our next President will have to address the issue of food safety and food security with urgency over their first 100 days in office and, indeed, throughout the entire four-year term.

Along with enormous challenges, there are some exciting opportunities for the next Administration. The House of Representatives passed the Global Food Security Act on July 6, sending a message that Congress overwhelmingly understands that its good, smart, fiscally-responsible policy to maintain its commitment to food security in the developing world. The bill, which now goes to the Senate, specifies that it is in the U.S. national interest to promote global food security and requires the President to develop and implement a strategy with agency-specific plans by October 1, 2016, to promote food security, resilience and nutrition. Specifically, the legislation calls for the Presidential strategy to incorporate a “whole-of-government” approach to be achieved through programs and plans that incorporate self-sufficiency goals, increased incomes for small-scale producers, reducing reliance on emergency food assistance, enhancing the status of women and children, and improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

Additionally, the Obama Administration established the international development program Feed the Future (FtF) to address food security. With 19 partner countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Central America, FtF is a country-led effort to encourage better farming techniques and improve supply chain development to ensure countries can grow more nutritious food and distribute that food more efficiently. To promote inclusive economic growth, FtF agencies work with partner countries to develop their agriculture sectors by increasing productivity, boosting the harvests (and incomes) for farmers, improving agricultural research and development to get proven ideas to more people, and increasing resilience to stop recurrent crises and help communities bounce back. This program focuses on small-scale farms that are less than five acres. There are about 33 million such farms, including 80 percent of all African farms.

 The FtF program is a success and should be embraced by the next U.S. President. Its latest progress report shows that more than 12.5 million children have been reached with nutrition interventions, and nearly 7 million farmers have improved their yields due to new technologies.

The Global Food Security Act and programs like Feed the Future ensures that the U.S. commitment to food security and food safety has a solid foundation on which the next Administration can continue to build. And it sends a message to the global community that the whole U.S. government is committed to international agricultural development.

As the next U.S. president navigates the first 100 days in office, it is critical that food security remains on the global political agenda, for both humanitarian and geopolitical reasons. All of the world’s nations have a stake in feeding a hungry world and, as Nobel Laureate Lord John Boyd once famously said, “You can’t build peace on an empty stomach.”

Dan Glickman

Dan Glickman, former U.S. secretary of agriculture, is the executive director of the Aspen Institute Congressional Program, a nongovernmental, nonpartisan educational program for members of the United States Congress. Read More