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On eve of UN food summit: 20 best ways to feed the hungry

The UN's food summit begins in Rome Monday. The lead-up to the summit has been mired in disputes, but one study highlights 20 innovative programs that have helped feed people worldwide.

U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Director-General Jacques Diouf speaks on a telephone during a 24-hour fast at the agency's headquarters in Rome November 13, 2009. A U.N. world food summit starts on Monday in Rome.

Giulio Napolitano/Reuters

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On the eve of a world food summit that will acknowledge 100 million additional hungry mouths in the world since last year, a new study chronicles 20 good ideas that have helped feed millions of people.

The initiatives range from milk cooperatives among women farmers in India to land reform in China, and they demonstrate what it takes to boost food production.

The 20 initiatives are showcased in a report titled "Millions Fed" by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington. It will be presented at this week's three-day world food summit in Rome, which starts Monday.

The search for the Oscars of food-production success resulted from frustration. Much of the focus on the 2008 food crisis has been on what went wrong. But people at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which funded the study, "were thinking about successes, not failure," says IFPRI director Joachim von Braun.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, which is hosting next week's summit, says the number of hungry people has topped 1 billion for the first time since global hunger estimates were first made in 1970.

But David Spielman, a research fellow with IFPRI's regional team in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, has another way of looking at that statistic: roughly 1 billion people were hungry in the late 1950s, when that number constituted about one-third of the world's population.


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