WFP’s Hot Dinner Data Sheds New Light On Big Disparities In The Cost Of A Bowl Of Food

Published January 13, 2017

ROME/DAVOS – A simple bowl of food in Malawi costs much more than in Davos when you measure the cost of the meal as a percentage of a person’s average daily income.

As political and business leaders gather for the World Economic Forum annual meeting, the World Food Programme (WFP) has worked out how costly food can be for some of the world’s poorest people.

From research it calls Hot Dinner Data, WFP found that as a proportion of income, people in the developing world can pay 100 times more than rich-country counterparts for a basic plate of food. When the most deprived, conflict-ravaged places are factored in, the cost can be up to 300 times higher.

Take a bowl of bean stew – a hot, nutritious meal consumed across regions and cultures. This meal would cost someone in Switzerland a mere 0.41 percent of their daily income to make, that is, 0.88 Swiss francs (CHF) or less than a U.S. dollar.

A person in Malawi, meanwhile, would need to spend 41 percent of their daily income to be able to eat the same meal. In Swiss terms, this would translate to CHF86.53, or 100 times more than the actual cost in Switzerland.

At the most extreme end, in the besieged Syrian town of Deir Ezzor, the cost of a bowl of bean stew would exceed a resident’s entire daily income – the equivalent of a staggering CHF271.40 when expressed in the Swiss context. In India or Nicaragua, while more affordable, the stew would still be proportionally 10 to 15 times more expensive than in Switzerland.

“The Hot Dinner Data analysis aims to hold a new mirror up to the world – one which illustrates the distortions in the purchasing power of the rich and the poor as they try to meet their basic food needs,” says WFP’s Chief Economist, Arif Husain. “It is a reminder that access to affordable, nutritious food should be a right for all.”

High food costs in poor countries are generally driven by huge losses caused by deficient storage, transport and distribution systems; excessive reliance on few staple crops; lack of access to markets for local farmers; insufficient preparedness in the face of a changing climate; and conflict – itself often fueled by grievances over the allocation of resources.

WFP believes that by taking firm steps to address many of these challenges, from crop diversification to waste reduction to more efficient supply chains, we can put food within everyone’s reach. As it works with partners local and global to achieve Zero Hunger, WFP will continue to highlight disparities in the price of food by expanding the Hot Dinner Data to include dozens more countries.

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  • The bowl of bean stew is determined on the basis of 600 kilocalories, around a third of an average adult’s daily requirements.
  • At the current exchange rate of CHF0.98 to US$1, the CHF is almost at parity with the US dollar.
  • Depending on the country or region, the methodology uses GDP data or data related to earnings calculated on the basis of wages and remittances.

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WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.

For more information please contact (email address:
Arif Husain, WFP/Rome: +39 347 050 3350
Susanna Sandstrom, WFP/Rome: +39 340 969 2108
Andre Vornic, WFP/Rome: +39 345 870 6985
Gregory Barrow, WFP/London: +44 7968 008474
Bettina Luescher, WFP/Geneva: + 41 79 842 8057