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Food Security and Scarcity: Why Ending Hunger is So Hard


C. Peter Timmer
Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Development Studies, emeritus, Harvard University and Non-Resident Fellow, Center for Global Development


Vijaya Ramachandran
Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development


Kim Elliott
Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development

“Sustainability” is not just an environmental concept. It also applies to market outcomes. No society has figured out how to allocate scarce economic resources efficiently on behalf of society’s needs without using market processes. But markets sometimes fail in this process, especially when hunger, poverty, income inequality and political voice are at stake. Peter Timmer’s book Food Security and Scarcity: Why Ending Hunger is So Hard, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in conjunction with the Center for Global Development, provides clear guidelines on how to analyze government policies and market structures in order to reduce hunger in a sustainable fashion.

Ending hunger requires the right balance of market forces and government interventions to drive a process of economic growth that reaches the poor and ensures that food supplies are readily, and reliably, available and accessible to even the poorest households. Locating that balance is increasingly challenging as the global economy becomes more integrated and less stable. But for all their problems and failures, markets are at the core of solving the problem of hunger.

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