World Food Day: Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition

World Food Day is celebrated annually on October 16th in honor of the foundation of the FAO in 1945. This year’s theme is “Sustainable food systems for food security and nutrition”.

The FAO estimates that almost 870 million people worldwide are chronically undernourished. According to the FAO, unsustainable models of development are degrading the natural environment, threatening ecosystems and biodiversity that will be needed for our future food supply. Food systems include the production, processing, transport, distribution and consumption of food, from farm to plate. All these processes are challenged by changing climate conditions, reduced crop yields, dependence on non-renewable sources of energy such as oil and minerals, and increasingly concentrated ownership of the international food trade as well as poor food and nutrition competences among many consumers. 

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Food waste and losses are a big problem both in developing and developed economies. For example, many rural smallholders around the world do not have access to food storage, processing and packaging facilities, and face problems bringing their products to market. In developed economies overproduction and domestic wastage are major problems. The development of sustainable food systems would help to reduce these sources of waste. They are characterized by low environmental impacts and protection of biodiversity. They contribute to food and nutritional security and support healthy lives among present and the future populations (FAO/WHO 2013, FAO 2012).

Food waste and lossesEvery aspect of the food system has an effect on the final availability and accessibility of diverse, nutritious foods – and therefore on consumers’ ability to choose healthy diets. What is more, policies and interventions on food systems are rarely designed with nutrition as their primary objectives.

What would a sustainable food system look like? Is it possible to get from here to there? What would need to change to move us in that direction? World Food Day 2013 is an opportunity to explore these and other questions, and help bring about the future we want.

sustainable food systems for food security

The objectives of World Food Day therefore are to:

  • encourage attention to agricultural food production and to stimulate national, bilateral, multilateral and non-governmental efforts to this end;
  • encourage economic and technical cooperation among developing countries;
  • encourage the participation of rural people, particularly women and the least privileged categories, in decisions and activities influencing their living conditions;
  • heighten public awareness of the problem of hunger in the world;
  • promote the transfer of technologies to the developing world; and
  • strengthen international and national solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty and draw attention to achievements in food and agricultural development.

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