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World Food Day 2019

Why we need World Food Day more than ever

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Dr Anna Lartey

Director of Nutrition and Food Systems, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

World Food Day 2019 links healthy diet with Zero Hunger says Dr Anna Lartey, Director of Nutrition and Food Systems, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

World Food Day is one of the most important days in the United Nations calendar, organised in more than 150 countries.

When it was established almost 40 years ago — to commemorate the founding of the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) — its aims were to promote worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger, and to ensure food security and nutritious diets for all.

Those aims haven’t changed, because we live in a world where 821 million people go to bed hungry every night. Plainly, we still have more work to do if we are to reach the UN’s second Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030.

Access to healthy foods is vital

It’s not enough to simply fill people’s stomachs – they  must be nourished, too. Access to healthy diets for many around the world is still a problem. Diets are changing with foods being more highly processed and high in fat, sugar and salt. The result is that obesity rates are soaring in all regions of the world.

More than two billion people are either overweight or obese and at a higher risk of developing non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Our diet is killing us. We need to change our diets to ensure we consume a balanced diet with a variety of foods, containing adequate amounts of fruits, vegetables and legumes.

That’s why the theme of this year’s World Food Day ‘healthy diet for a Zero Hunger world’ is so appropriate.

Making nutritious food affordable

It’s incredible to think that, in some countries, growing rates of obesity co-exist with hunger and other forms of undernutrition.

Countries need to study their own food systems, starting with production, to ensure they produce the foods that people need to consume more of, e.g. fruit and vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

The food environment must change, too, because if we are always surrounded by cheap, highly-processed foods, the likelihood is that we’ll buy them.

Consumers also need to be given the right information through good, easy to understand food labels to help them make the right food choices.

Governments should consider laws that prevent junk food advertising to children and, crucially, put in place policies to ensure that nutritious food is available — and affordable.

We must tackle the problem of malnutrition from an early age, we must teach children about food and introduce them to proper eating habits. This starts in the home. Food and nutrition education should also be part of the school curriculum. But we should not fool ourselves: we have to do more — together.

At the FAO, we’re working with our members to raise awareness of the importance of a healthy diet.

World Food Day is a time to reflect on the ways we can reach that Zero Hunger vision.

The views expressed in this campaign’s content are those of the individual author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of FAO.

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