Almost a billion people go hungry every day, and the consequences are enormous. Hunger can be deadly — malnutrition leaves the hungry especially vulnerable to diseases. Hunger also costs countries $450 billion a year in lost gross domestic product.

Ensuring that people have enough food to eat “has to be near the top of the global agenda,” Secretary of State John Kerry says. “There’s not much else we can get done without it.”

With the world population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, experts say food production will need to double in order to meet demand. That’s a daunting task, made even harder as climate change accelerates and threatens more cropland and livestock. What can we do?

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The answer lies in simple, smart investments in agricultural production. Today, we have the science, innovation and technology to sustainably feed a growing planet.

Women must also be part of the solution. They play crucial roles as farmers, entrepreneurs and community leaders, but have far less access to education and credit than men. If women had the same resources as men, they could boost farm yields by up to 30 percent.

The United States has been a leader in unlocking the potential of agriculture to reduce hunger and malnutrition. In 2010, President Obama launched the Feed the Future initiative to improve agricultural development and food security in 19 of the neediest countries.

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Feed the Future helps small farmers, particularly women, access the tools and technologies they need to increase crop yields. Together with businesses, universities and nongovernmental organizations, the program is breaking the cycle of hunger in some of the world’s poorest communities.

  • In Bangladesh, the use of improved fertilizer, rice varieties and management practices has helped farmers increase rice yields by up to 20 percent.
  • Farmers in Senegal were able to double their maize yields with the introduction of drought-tolerant seeds and better management techniques.
  • More than 4,300 Honduran families are now above the poverty line in part due to a 125 percent rise in high-value crop sales.

World Food Day is October 16. Learn more about how innovations in food and agriculture can help feed the world at the USA Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015.