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World Food Day 2020

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) designated 16th October to be celebrated as World Food Day each year and it brings to the forefront the importance of food in our lives. This year the theme of the celebrations is “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together.” It underlines the importance of the farm to table concept and encourages us all to contribute to the lives of those who work tirelessly to bring food to our table. We must take a moment to acknowledge their contribution and think of ways where we as individuals or organisations can act to nourish and sustain their livelihood.

Food is a necessity for all and therefore it is unfair that some people are denied access to it while certain other privileged ones are entitled to food wastage. Although, we might wish for a more equal world this disparity is real and happening. The COVID 19 pandemic has made this divide even worse.

This year the World Food Day is being celebrated under unique circumstances, such that the world has never seen before. The COVID 19 pandemic is looming large on people’s minds and the way things operate that it has made this year a first in many respects. It has turned people’s lives topsy turvy and has brought numerous challenges to them. One such challenge is the availability of food and economic security.

According to the FAO, it is estimated that more than 2 billion people worldwide remain denied of regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food. With the global population expected to be at almost 10 billion by 2050, it is an irony that almost 690 million people are hungry, which is an increase of 10 million since 2019. This situation could be further aggravated and worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic which could further increase another 83-132 million people to this number.

Global Malnutrition problem is two folds which include undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, on one hand, as well as overweight and obesity on the other, is a burden on the global economy. Global hunger has been on a progressive rise since 2014 together with rising obesity, clearly indicates the need to accelerate and scale up actions to strengthen food systems and protect people's livelihoods.

Agriculture is the mainstay to keep food production up to speed with rising demands but even that sector is facing challenges and the brunt of the pandemic. It is an alarming fact that at present only nine plant species account for 66% of total crop production, despite the fact that there are at least 30 000 edible plants. This calls for greater biodiversity in agriculture and incentives to grow a large number of crops rather than being restricted to its economical aspect only. We need to grow a variety of food to nourish people and sustain the planet.

We need to devise food systems which would be able to provide for future demands and ensure affordable and healthy diets for all and decent livelihoods for food system workers. At the same time, it becomes increasingly important to preserve natural resources and biodiversity and consider steps to tackle environmental challenges like climate change and natural resources depletion.

It is estimated that approximately 14% of food production aimed for human consumption is wasted or lost/annum in between before it reaches the wholesale market. More food is wasted at the retail food and consumer stages which imply that steps need to be taken to try to reduce this food wastage at all levels.

The field of agriculture in recent decades has seen significant progress being made globally in improving agricultural productivity. Although we now produce more than enough food to feed everyone, our food systems are out of balance. Hunger, obesity, environmental degradation, loss of agro-biological diversity, food loss and waste and a lack of security for food chain workers are only some of the issues that underline this imbalance. As countries begin to develop and implement COVID-19 recovery plans, it is an opportunity to adopt innovative solutions based on scientific evidence so they can build back better and improve food systems, making them more resistant to shocks. (FAO)

World Food Day is calling for global solidarity to help all populations, and especially the most vulnerable, to recover from the crisis, and to make food systems more resilient and robust so they can withstand increasing volatility and climate shocks, deliver affordable and sustainable healthy diets for all, and decent livelihoods for food system workers. This will require improved social protection schemes and new opportunities offered through digitalization and e-commerce, but also more sustainable agricultural practices that preserve the Earth’s natural resources, our health, and the climate. (FAO)

I urge each one of us to act at two levels:

  1. Responsibility towards our own health by being mindful of our food habits
  2. Responsibility towards the food heroes right from the farmer, shopkeeper, transporter, wholesaler, retailer and other workers in the food sector who help bring food to us

By being responsible towards our health, it is important that we are mindful of what we feed ourselves and our families. It is our duty to ensure there is no food wastage at our end and we take whatever we need rather than stock up food and let it go waste. Try to buy local as much as possible to strengthen the local economy and help those who work in this area. Any food we waste could have been used to feed a hungry and needy, so be mindful. It is our responsibility to try our best not to waste any food.

Given these trying COVID 19 times, we must try to shoulder another responsibility and that is to lend a helping hand to those in need around us. Try to use local products as much as possible, buy from local food vendors and help nourish and sustain their livelihood. Behind our food, there is always someone who produced, planted, harvested, fished or transported it. This World Food Day, let’s take the opportunity to thank these #FoodHeroes who, no matter the circumstances, continue to provide food to their communities and beyond - helping to grow, nourish and sustain our world. (FAO)

Let us pledge this World Food Day to be more responsible to food as well as towards food heroes.

Dr Avantina Sharma Bhandari is a Wellness Advisor with a PhD in Nutrition and Practical Training in Clinical Nutrition from Potsdam, Germany. She has a passion for communicating facts about health, food and wellness to people. She loves to write on health and nutrition issues. Some of her books are Textbook of Food Science and Technology, Principles of Therapeutic Nutrition and Dietetics, Food Product Development, Healthy recipe guide and Basic Plant Pathology. 

Being a globetrotter, she loves to travel and sample ethnic dishes from those regions. This helps her to combine unique ingredients from global cuisines and make innovative recipes appetizing to the palette while being healthy at the same time.  She has worked in New York, Geneva and India in both academic as well as public sector.  She believes in promoting “Health with Happiness” emphasising on Physical wellness as well as Mental wellness. More information about her work is available on her website

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author.

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