Strengthening Food Systems Hold Key To Healthier Diets

Strengthening Food Systems Hold Key To Healthier Diets

Strengthening and transforming food systems are critical to ensuring healthier diets and securing zero hunger in keeping with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), says United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator, Dr. Garry Conille.

SDG 2 aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.

Addressing a recent consultation workshop on ‘Catalysing the Sustainable and Inclusive Transformation of Food Systems in Jamaica,’ Dr. Conille said that poverty, income inequality and the high cost of food continue to keep healthy diets outside of the reach of three billion people around the world.

“Hunger and malnourishment have been on the rise for a number of years around the world, even before the coronavirus (COVID-19). Before the pandemic, the percentage of the population not consuming enough calories per day –and that is the percentage of the population that is undernourished – has been on a very slight rise, according to the state of food security and nutrition in the world,” he pointed out.                               

He noted that in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, there has been a consistent rise in obesity and persons who are overweight.

“It goes hand in hand with anaemia among women and other micronutrient deficiencies in children. We have also witnessed the slight rise in the stunting of children under five before 2020. COVID-19 has made things worse and made clear, the linkages between inequality, poverty, high food prices and disease,” he said.

Findings from the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey III (2016-2017) indicate that one in four women, 15 years and older is anaemic.

The survey also stated that one in two Jamaicans is classified as overweight (pre-obese or obese).

Women are more impacted by pre-obesity with two thirds of Jamaican women, 15 years or older, classified as having pre-obesity or obesity.

Dr. Conille said that unlocking the potential of food systems will also reduce food loss and waste, thereby ensuring greater levels of food security.

He said that “up to 50 per cent of fruits and vegetable produced in developing countries today, are lost in the supply chain between harvest and consumption. This means not only loss of income to farmers and access to healthy produce by urban dwellers, but also a terrible waste of resources. It can take up to 50 meters of water to produce an orange. Losses in fruits and vegetables represent a waste of increasingly scarce resources such as soil and obviously water.”

Measures to cut food loss and waste will also ensure greater efficiency in food production and reduce the negative impacts on the environment from greenhouse gas emissions.

“Consider for a moment that around a third of all food produced by human consumption is lost or wasted. According to the FAO, food loss and waste accounts for about 4.4 giga tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Food loss and food waste generate more than four times as much annual greenhouse gas emission as aviation and is comparable to emissions from road transports,” Dr. Conille pointed out.

SDG 2 is also focused on resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, help maintain ecosystems, strengthen the capacity for adaptation to climate change and extreme weather, and progressively improves land and soil quality.


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