You Are How You Eat

The old adage "You are what you eat" is no longer relevant. This World Food Day, reducing food waste is critical to saving the planet.

October 16, 2019

8:50 am

As one-two punches go, mid-October offers a fairly devastating combination to two of humanity’s biggest challenges.

Today, October 16th, is World Food Day, and tomorrow is International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Back-to-back days on the UN Calendar put the focus on poverty and hunger, which also happen to align with the first two UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): SDG1 is No Poverty and SDG2 is Zero Hunger.

The aim of all the SDGs, of course, is to collectively provide a blueprint toward a more sustainable planet by outlining targets to achieve solutions to the planet’s most intractable problems by 2030.

But though these goals were unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015, we’ve made very little progress to date. And in some instances, we’ve even gone backwards. As In Depth News reported this weekend, “The hunger problem persists: particularly in Africa and South America, where there are new indications that undernourishment and severe food insecurity are on the rise. In Sub-Saharan Africa the number of undernourished people has increased, from some 195 million in 2014, to 237 million in 2017.”

The SDGs are like an interlocking puzzle, in which stress on one of the Goals can have devastating impact on others. Food insecurity is on the rise in many parts of the world because of climate change, and the imbalance that creates also affects poverty, education (SD4), health (SDG3), water and sanitation (SDG6), and perhaps most worrisome, peace and justice (SDG16). And in Burkina Faso, for example, as the World Food Programme notes, “Attacks, killings and kidnappings have become commonplace in the country. More than 280,000 people have fled their homes. Access for humanitarian personnel is restricted in the north and eastern provinces, and in areas bordering Mali.”

And this is all directly attributable to the increase in food insecurity in the region. “With the violence continuing,” the WFP notes, “what success, sustainability and resilience has been achieved through WFP’s investment is at risk of being undone.”

The link is further emphasized by Máximo Torero, Chief Economist and Assistant Director-General, Economic and Social Development Department, of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), who notes he cannot overemphasize the interlinkages between these goals. “Zero hunger, for example, integrates and links food security, nutrition and sustainable, climate-resilient agriculture.”

In the Middle East, the WFP announced this summer that it was partially suspending aid in Yemen because of violence around food insecurity.

So what can be done? The WFP has outlined a five-point plan for solving world hunger, which synchs with the SDGs:

* More protection for the most vulnerable

* Improve infrastructure

* Reduce food waste

* Grow a wider variety of crops

* Focus on child nutrition

At least one of the above, reducing food waste, is a practice that can be adopted by all concerned citizens, whether it be making more sensible purchases, incorporating “ugly” fruits and vegetables into ones shopping, reducing food portions, and eating “locally.”

This World Food Day, remember, the old adage “You are what you eat” is less applicable than “You are how you eat.”

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