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5 Major Ways Mushrooms Can Help To Solve The Problem of Food Insecurity

Do you have access to nutritious food at all times?

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2020 report, 2 billion people are currently suffering from food insecurity worldwide.

1.03 billion of these people live in Asia, 675 million live in Africa, 205 million live in Latin America and the Caribbean, 88 million live in Northern America and Europe, and 5.9 million live in Oceania.

The number of undernourished people in the world is projected to exceed 840 million in 2030.

Is food insecurity a major problem in the United States?

As of 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that 89.5% of US households were food secure, while the remaining 10.5% were food insecure at some point during the year, and 4.1% had very low food security.

10-USDA-food-security-statistics

Food insecurity is a complicated problem that has rendered 1 in 9 Americans food insecure. This problem is not an isolated one and doesn’t have one face. Every community in the U.S. is impacted by food insecurity.

But what can be done to ensure food security?

Mushrooms play a vital role in meeting the demands of food scarcity by sustaining food production and security. They contain valuable nutritional compounds, such as amino acids, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Are you uncertain about how mushrooms can ensure food security?

Read on! This article will show you how mushrooms can help you to achieve food security. Here’s what you will learn:

  • Why the need for food security?
  • What you need to know about mushrooms
  • Are mushrooms the key to food security?

Are you ready to become food secure for life?

Why the Need For Food Security?

How important is food to you?

Food is one of the vital necessities of life. Every person needs food since it provides energy for all vital life activities. Unfortunately, not everyone has the access to food that they should. 

According to the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security (CFS), food security means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary preferences and needs for an active and healthy life.

Food security is in four levels, each of which describes how different households access enough food. These levels are:

10-Ranges-of-food-security
    • High food security
    • Marginal food security
    • Low food security
    • Very low food security

    But why do some people have food while some don’t?

    Due to factors like war, population growth, desertification, urbanization, and poor agricultural practices, people have struggled with the problem of malnutrition and food scarcity for many centuries.

    Today, this remains a significant issue that is exacerbated in African countries and some parts of Asia. It is expected to worsen because of increased war in Africa and the Middle East, desertification in Sub-Saharan Africa and other parts, rapid population growth in Africa and Asia, urbanization in Europe and America, and poor agricultural practices in third-world countries. 

    The COVID-19 pandemic aggravated the problem of food insecurity in the United States with many households worried about running out of food, as shown by a COVID Impact Survey.

10-Food-insecurity-in-US-households

According to a 2020 report by Global Hunger Index, about 690 million people in the world are undernourished, with Chad, Timor-Leste, and Madagascar displaying alarming hunger levels. This is also expected to worsen due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite this, worldwide hunger is still considered to be at a moderate level. In the future, this is expected to become  worse and will be more difficult to deal with. Millions, if not billions, of people will experience malnutrition, hunger, or death from an inadequate food supply.

Africa and Asia will be most affected. For now, Africa, South Sahara, and South Asia are topping the global hunger and malnutrition levels with a GHI of 27.8 and 26.0, respectively.

What other factors are responsible for global food insecurity?

According to data released in 2020 by the Population Reference Bureau, the world population is estimated at about 7.8 billion. By 2050, this figure is projected to increase by over 25% to 9.9 billion.

It is also expected to increase further to approximately 11.2 billion 80 years from now, the bulk of which is expected to come from India and China.

Today, the urban population is approximated at 50 % and is expected to accelerate to around two-thirds of the total population by 2050. 

Is there enough food to feed this population?

It has become imperative that we begin to look at growing food that will sustain these populations, hence the need to look at mushrooms.

Are you worried that you will run out of food and not have enough money for more?

What You Need To Know About Mushrooms

A mushroom is a fungus. It belongs in the fungi kingdom, which is separate from plants and animals. One main way fungi are different from plants and animals is the way it obtains its nutrients. 

Mushrooms are fleshy fungi that form an umbrella-like fruiting body. It cannot manufacture its food because it lacks chlorophyll. Therefore, it uses microscopic spores as a means of reproduction.

Mushrooms are mostly found in temperate and tropical regions. They can be either edible or non-edible. Edible mushrooms have medicinal value, while the non-edible mushrooms are poisonous. The nutritional value of mushrooms varies according to species. 

10-Types-of-edible-mushrooms

Some types of mushrooms include filled mushrooms, pore mushrooms, tooth fungi, and toadstools. Edible fungi are often called mushrooms, while poisonous ones are referred to as toadstools.

Mushrooms sometimes appear overnight in tropical and temperate regions but, in reality, it takes days or weeks for one to develop. The reason why the growth of mushrooms is usually unnoticeable is mostly that the growth occurs underground. 

The underground body of a mushroom, called the mycelium, consists of moist, thread-like filaments. When growth conditions are good, they form little knots of hyphae, known as primordials.

10-Mushroom-structure

As the individual primordials grow larger, the hyphae within them grow and develop into two parts. One part will become the mushroom’s cap, and the other, its stem. When the primordium gets large enough, the stem elongates and pushes the cap up above the ground. As the stem elongates, the cap expands, a little like an unfolding umbrella. 

Before the discovery of synthetic dyes, mushrooms were used as the source of dyes for textiles. Mushrooms are a good source of dye because the chromophores of mushroom dyes are organic compounds and produce strong, vivid colors. You can produce all the colors of the spectrum with mushroom dyes. 

Are Mushrooms The Key To Food Security?

Mushroom cultivation can play an important role in supporting food security, nutrition, and medicine. Since it does not require access to land, mushroom cultivation is a viable and attractive activity for both rural farmers and urban dwellers.

10-Global-food-insecurity

They can be cultivated on a part-time basis, and require little maintenance. 

But how can mushrooms bring about food security?

The following are 5 major ways that mushrooms can ensure food security: 

  1. Mushrooms help to improve the soil for agriculture:

One major challenge facing food security in third world countries is the cost of improving soil nutrients for farming. A huge amount of money is needed to buy fertilizer and pesticides to ensure a high yield. 

But since mushrooms are fungi, you know by now that mycorrhizal fungi can significantly improve the nutritional quality and overall health of crops, resulting in a high yield. When you plant mushrooms alongside other crops, fungi colonies are multiplied. 

These important fungi connect with the roots of 90 to 95 % of plants in the world, where they help acquire nutrients that the plant roots cannot obtain themselves. This is most notable with phosphorus, which these fungi can make soluble from clay and rock, or by digesting organic matter. 

Therefore, farmers may not need to buy fertilizers and pesticides to produce the same quantity of food.

Another way mushrooms improve the soil is through the decay of its leftovers after harvest. These leftovers have been proven to be a good addition to soil. Some nurseries sell commercial mushroom compost. 

The leftovers, when decayed, help to increase the water-holding capacity and nutrient availability of the soil. Most mushroom growers don’t use these leftovers, so it is easy to obtain. So, even if you don’t grow mushrooms, you might be able to get some of these leftovers for free and use them to improve the soil.

  1. They contain a good amount of food nutrients: 

Having food is not enough!

Does the food contain all the minerals needed for proper body functionality?

If you’re looking for an all-natural multivitamin, skip the supplements and pick up some mushrooms. 

Mushrooms contain a good amount of nutrients needed by the body. The chemical components of mushrooms include proteins, vitamins, fats, carbohydrates, amino acids, and minerals.

10-Nutritional-benefits-of-mushrooms

It is also interesting to know that, on average, the protein value of mushrooms is twice that of potatoes and cabbage, four-times that of tomatoes and carrots, and six-times that of oranges. 

Mushrooms contain B vitamins, including pantothenic acid (B5), niacin (B3), and riboflavin (B2), plus copper and selenium. Mushrooms also have protein, fiber, potassium, vitamin D, and calcium, with a water content of about 90 percent.

Analysis has also shown that 53 nitrogen compounds are found in a single strain of Agaricus bisporus. Mushrooms contain 206.27 mg of vitamin C per 100 mg of the fresh fruiting body. They also contain thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and ascorbic acid. All essential for human health. 

Most common fats are also available in different mushrooms. Their carbohydrate constituent varies between 3 % and 28 %. The mineral content far exceeds that of meat and fish, and is nearly twice that of the most commonly used vegetables. 

  1. Improve animal feed

Do you have an animal farm?

After mushrooms are harvested, the protein and vitamin-rich waste can be used as animal feed for your farm animals. Farm animals are a good source of protein and are important in achieving food security. 

Many studies have shown that chickens, fish, lambs, cattle, and other farm animals all benefit from eating mushrooms and their mycelium. Researchers have found that farm animals showed significant improvement in overall health, digestion, and disease resistance when they consume mushrooms. 

When medicinal Cordyceps mushrooms are fed to chickens, some of the medicinal compounds in the mushroom can also pass onto the animal's eggs, suggesting the future production of many novel medicinal mushroom-egg-based products.

Isn’t this amazing?

  1. Cheap and easy to grow:

Food security can be achieved with mushrooms because they are cheap and easy to grow. Additionally, their growth is usually rapid and you can start harvesting within a few weeks. Urbanization is not a threat to growing mushrooms because it does not require much space. 

Practically anyone can grow mushrooms at any time of the year. All you need is a humid environment and a space in your basement. You may not need soil for growing mushrooms because they don't have seeds. So, use spores to plant them instead.

These spores are so tiny that you can't see the individual spores with your naked eye. 

Another important benefit is that you don't need to spend money on buying fertilizer. To grow mushrooms, you require waste like sawdust, grain, straw, or wood chips for nourishment. A blend of the spores and these nutrient sources is called spawn. 

  1. Substitute for medicine:

In sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, food crops are used for medicinal purposes. But mushrooms can be a good alternative. 

Mushrooms are medicinal. They contain antibodies and anticancer agents that can be used for treatment, as has been done continuously for thousands of years. 

They also serve as a good food substitute for diabetic and anemic patients because their carbohydrate levels are very low and they have a high folic acid content. 

In addition, mushrooms may do a lot more for your health than fueling your body. They have antibacterial properties and can help to lower cholesterol. 

They’re good for your immune system as they may even help to prevent or treat Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, and cancer.

So, Now That You Know a Major Way to Solve the Global Food Insecurity Problem, What Do you Want To Do?

Mushrooms can form a significant part of the solution to the world’s food security problem. With increased awareness and capacity building regarding the benefits of mushrooms in different states and countries, these fungi will become more commercialized.

This is excellent news for gardeners, horticulturists, and growers who will benefit from the production and utilization of mushrooms in a sustainable manner.

Contact us at Plant Revolution Inc. for more information on how to improve the health of your garden and contribute to a more sustainable food security approach for yourself, your household, and your community.