Today is World Food Day, a day established in 1979 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to reflect on hunger, malnutrition and poverty and draw attention to achievements in food security and agricultural development. The theme this year is “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition”.
Food Security affects around 842 million people around the world. One in eight people in the world suffer from chronic hunger, not having enough food for an active and healthy life. And as world population grows, more and more people will go hungry in the future. Our food system that brings food from farm to fork is highly inefficient and unsustainable. We produce enough to feed everyone, yet we waste it along the way.
In How to Feed the World Mark Bittman writes “The world has long produced enough calories, around 2,700 per day per human, more than enough to meet the United Nations projection of a population of nine billion in 2050, up from the current seven billion. There are hungry people not because food is lacking, but because not all of those calories go to feed humans (a third go to feed animals, nearly 5 percent are used to produce biofuels, and as much as a third is wasted, all along the food chain).
The current system is neither environmentally nor economically sustainable, dependent as it is on fossil fuels and routinely resulting in environmental damage. It’s geared to letting the half of the planet with money eat well while everyone else scrambles to eat as cheaply as possible.”
Food security today is vastly influenced by The Green Revolution of 1940s which focused mostly on productivity and not so much on the environment. Today it is clear that the way forward is not so much about growing more but certainly about growing better.
Danielle Nierenberg and Thomas Szymanski of Food Tank write that “The vast majority of these family farmers live in the developing world where the pangs of poor nutrition reverberate through all sectors of society. However, analysis from the FAO reveals that smallholder family farmers who have diversified their crops have been most successful in increasing their consumption of nutrient-dense foods. Farmers in Malaysia have interspersed their plots with the hardy Moringa oleifera tree whose leaves provide twice the protein and over three times the calcium of milk per gram. In Ethiopia family farmers have long cultivated the drought tolerant banana-like crop called ensete that can provide enough food for a family of five on an area of land roughly the size of a tennis court.”
Of course for many of us there is not much we can do about farming or food production methods. Yet here is how we can all help shape a more sustainable food system:
1. By reducing the amount of meat we eat, we can help alleviate the negative effects of livestock farming (such as deforestation, greenhouse gases emissions, high water usage and pollution). Today livestock is reared intensively, producing a huge amount of waste and greenhouse gases emissions and fed with grains which require land to grow. The meat industry requires around 33 percent of total arable land.
2. By eating more seasonal, organic and/or local food we can support local farmers, help preserve biodiversity and promote crop diversity.
3. By wasting less food (because we ALL waste too much) we can help preserve water, food and resources.
Happy World Food Day!