How much would you expect to pay for the most basic plate of food?

It's something that many of us might take for granted. In New York State for example, ingredients for a simple meal - perhaps a soup or a simple stew - costs just 0.6 percent of someone's income.

Contrast this with South Sudan, where a shopper would have to spend an astonishing 186 percent of their income to do the same.

Such a difference brings into sharp focus the huge inequalities at play between those people in developing countries and others in more prosperous parts of the world.

Conflict and climate change have long affected people's ability to afford food across multiple countries, as they are driven from their land and livelihoods and left unable to produce or buy the produce they need to feed their families.

Now COVID-19 has added another layer to the challenges faced by most vulnerable groups, through increased unemployment, loss of remittances and weak economies that prevent countries offsetting the worst effects of the pandemic. Market-dependent groups in urban areas are increasingly at risk.

This, the third Cost of a Plate of Food report, highlights the impact of these factors on people's access to affordable food. Sub-Saharan Africa in particular stands out, with 17 out of the top 20 countries in the report coming from this region. A high dependency on food imports and on informal labour are among the reasons for this.

With more investment in the short term to support people from the fallout of COVID-19, and greater emphasis on building sustainable food systems in the long term as a foundation for access to affordable, nutritious food, we can break down the inequalities that underpin the results in this report.

Every day, the UN World Food Programme is on the frontlines in this effort, supporting governments in developing safety nets such as cash programmes that increase people's purchasing power, working with retailers on fair pricing, flexing our huge procurement muscle to boost production and supply of food, and building resilience to climate extremes through community projects.

Our extensive work tackling hunger in conflict zones, and in promoting the links between food security, peace and stability, are gaining even greater global traction with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to WFP in October 2020.

This report highlights the work that still needs to be done, with multiple pressures continuing to put affordable food beyond the reach of millions. Only when this changes can the goal of a zero hunger world truly be realized.

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