Data Viz: Who Feeds The World’s Hungry?

An interactive graphic shows that international food aid is one of America’s specialties.


When you live in a country like the U.S., where political leaders can’t even agree to continue feeding their own constituents, it’s easy to forget that one in eight people around the world will go to sleep hungry tonight. A visualization published last week by data scientist and designer Santiago Ortiz reveals the incredible efforts by the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) over the past decade to address that need and feed the planet’s 840 million undernourished citizens.


The interactive globe rewards users who have time to explore, as Ortiz hasn’t identified any trends or stories to pull the user into the map or stacked bar charts of donations. But select a few countries and you’ll discover that some nations are unexpectedly stingy when it comes to beating back global hunger.

China, to pick one, was the WFP’s largest aid recipient when the program began in the 1960s. In the past decade, the country has returned the favor, donating $31.5 million worth of food. But compare that with Finland, which has given $263.5 million over the same period, or the United States, which has donated $15.5 billion.

The United States has donated $15.5 billion in food aid over the past decade.

“I expect that a curious user will find several different stories in this complex global story of cooperation,” Ortiz tells Co.Design. And complex it is, with politics and psychology on display as much as hunger. Haiti received almost $150 million in food aid during 2010, the year of the earthquake. But from the meager $6.5 million dollars the country received in 2011, you’d think recovery efforts finished up on December 31 the previous year.

It’s impossible to get a full geopolitical picture from one dataset, of course. China, though it may not donate as much to the WFP, has reduced the size of its undernourished population by 37.6% over the past 20 years, a remarkable achievement.

In the past decade, China has donated $31.5 million worth of food.

Still, the 250,000 children under five who die from malnourishment every month can slip by unnoticed in the media. Even if it’s just to pat yourself on the back for living in a country that takes international aid so seriously, Ortiz’s globe of hunger is worth a spin.

About the author

Gus Wezerek is a UI developer at Fast Company.