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Hidden hunger

This refers not to the overt and obvious hunger of poor people who are unable to afford enough to eat, but to a more insidious type caused by eating food that is cheap and filling but deficient in essential vitamins and micronutrients. A World Health Organisation report pointed out recently that this problem is widespread, in particular in the Third World, where families may fill themselves with cheap rice, say, but be unable to afford the fruit, vegetables and meat needed to provide a balanced diet. A related cause is that some of the “green revolution” crops of the 1960s and 1970s that were created specifically to reduce starvation are often short of nutrients such as zinc, iron and vitamin A. The term hidden hunger is not often found outside specialist journals and is more common in news agency copy than in newspapers and magazines: at some point along the road to publication the phrase is blue-pencilled by sub-editors who regard it as jargon. It is sometimes also employed as a general term for the extreme poverty that can exist undetected or unacknowledged in developed countries; it has appeared in this sense in the USA and New Zealand in recent years.

He questioned the rationale behind keeping exotic animals and spending fortunes to feed them while a vast majority of Gambians are plagued by “hidden hunger”.

Africa News Service, Aug. 2002

According to Gautam, apart from absolute hunger stemming from lack of food, there are at least three more types of hunger, for instance, “hidden hunger” for micronutrients such as minerals and vitamins.

Xinhua News Agency, Jun. 2002

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 21 Dec. 2002

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

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Last modified: 21 December 2002.