Without healthy diets, we can never address hunger  

13Oct 2021
The Guardian
Without healthy diets, we can never address hunger  

In politics, humanitarian aid, and the social sciences, hunger is defined as a condition in which a person cannot eat sufficient food to meet basic nutritional needs for a sustained period. In the field of hunger relief, the term hunger is used in a sense that goes beyond the-

-common desire for food that all humans experience.

The most extreme form of hunger, when malnutrition is widespread, and when people have started dying of starvation through lack of access to sufficient, nutritious food, leads to a declaration of famine.  

Throughout history, portions of the world's population have often suffered sustained periods of hunger. In many cases, hunger resulted from food supply disruptions caused by war, plagues, or adverse weather. In the decades following World War II, technological progress and enhanced political cooperation suggested it might be possible to substantially reduce the number of people suffering from hunger. While progress was uneven, by 2014, the threat of extreme hunger subsided for many of the world's population. From 2014 to 2019 according to the FAO's 2021 The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report, the numbers suffering from chronic hunger began to slowly increase. A sharp jump occurred in 2020, leading to 768 million people suffering from undernourishment.  

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has called for action to stem food loss and waste, which it says are a major cause of hunger and malnutrition around the world.

FAO experts say countries currently are producing enough food to feed the nearly eight billion people who populate the world. Yet more than 800 million are going hungry.

Another two billion people, they say, are suffering from nutrition deficiencies, which can cause serious health problems.

The deputy director of the FAO’s food and nutrition division, Nancy Aburto, says millions of children suffer stunting and wasting, which are deadly forms of under nutrition, and one in three adults are overweight or obese.

That, she says, is another form of under nutrition caused by inadequate vitamins, minerals and unhealthy diets.

“The high cost of healthy diets has put healthy diets out of reach for billions of people around the world, in every region around the world including Europe,” said Aburto. “And this trend has been seen to get worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without healthy diets, we can never address the problems of hunger and malnutrition.”

A 2019 FAO study found an estimated 14 per cent of food produced globally spoils or is ruined from post-harvest to the point of sale. Another study by the U.N. environment programme this year shows an estimated 17 per cent of food that is available to consumers is wasted.

The United Nations says around one third of all food or 1.3 billion tons of food produced globally ends up rotting in retail market or consumer trash bins. U.N. economists value the loss at around $1 trillion a year.

Aburto warns the U.N. will never reach its sustainable development goal of zero hunger by 2030 if food loss and waste continues unchecked. She says the ongoing problem also undermines the sustainability of global food systems for the future.

“Food loss and waste account for approximately 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions,” said Aburto. “While food is lost or wasted, all of the resources that went into producing that, including water, land, energy, labour, and capital all go to waste. Reducing food loss and waste can lead to greater availability and accessibility of healthy diets and reduce hunger and malnutrition but this is not guaranteed.”

FAO has declared this Wednesday to be International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Food Waste.

Aburto says reducing food loss and waste would lead to healthier, more nutritious diets, decrease world hunger, and result in environmental benefits.

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