Today (October 16) is UN World Food Day. “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition” is the theme and this phrase carries much important information, a call for engagement and hope for a better future. The food system is not just farmers and fishers. It is scientists who develop improved technologies; the suppliers of farm inputs; those who transport, store and process food; and those who market it.
All of us are consumers of food and what we decide to eat, how we acquire it, the ways in which we prepare it – along with how many children we have – determines the nature and scale of the overall demand for food.
The biggest failure for a sustainable food system is that, in spite of plentiful food supplies, the health of more than half the world’s 7 billion population is affected by under- or over-consumption. Around 840 million fellow humans face daily food shortages; 2 billion suffer nutrient deficiencies; while1.5 billion are overweight or obese, consuming more food than their bodies need and exposing themselves to a greater threat of diabetes, heart problems and other diseases.
How we grow our food for a growing global population has put enormous stresses on natural resources. We have degraded soils, polluted and exhausted fresh water supplies, encroached on forests, depleted wild fish stocks, and narrowed biodiversity, leaving these resources with a diminished capacity to meet the
food needs of future generations. Intensive farming systems, combined with food wastage on a massive scale, have also become a big source of the greenhouse gas emissions that help to drive the processes of climate change that, in turn, are expected to create new adaptation challenges for farmers. Even food consumers in a rich country like Canada do not yet pay for the cost of this damage to natural capital or for clearing it up.
There is hope. But it takes each of us making real choices as consumers and as global citizens in urging our country to take a lead in food for development. We are learning from the fair trade and slow food movements, as well as from the certification of food and forest products from sustainably managed resources, that it is possible for individual consumers to take buying decisions that improve the living conditions of farmers and fishermen and encourage them to take up sustainable production practices.
If you are what you eat, then today, World Food Day, UNA-Canada urges you to think about what you ‘are’ and how we can make food sustainable, accessible to those who are hungry and ensure that healthy options are available for those who are eating too many empty calories.
President & CEO