World Food Day - Healthy Diets for a #ZeroHunger World

16.10.19 |Article |Education

World Food Day – Healthy Diets for a #ZeroHunger World

Every year, on the 16th of October, organisations and individuals around the world come together to reaffirm their commitment to tackling global hunger. Marking the creation of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), events are held worldwide to promote awareness and actions needed to ensure adequate, sustainable and nutritious diets are accessible to all.

This year, World Food Day calls for action across sectors to make “healthy and sustainable diets affordable and accessible to everyone.” As highlighted in the new UNICEF State of the World’s Children 2019 report, we witness today a changing burden of malnutrition with the combination of underweight, overweight and hunger co-existing not only in one country but even within the same families. This shift in the picture of children’s malnutrition can be summarised simply: “more children and young people are surviving, but far too few are thriving.”

Where does this come from? We see today a considerable shift in diets where many populations favour modern diets over traditional, healthier and more nutritious diets. The impacts of globalisation and urbanisation are clear. We witness the proliferation of nutrient-poor and energy-rich diets. Access to fresh fruits and vegetables is hidden by the overwhelming presence of high-calorie, low-nutrient, ultra-processed foods in supermarkets. Healthy food options remain more expensive than processed foods, disproportionately affecting more vulnerable populations. But the challenge we are facing goes beyond that: food systems around the world are broken.

Food systems are a rather complex concept. They include “all the elements and activities involved in the production, processing, distribution, preparation and consumption of food, as well as the outcomes of these activities, including nutrition and health.” This means that a wide range of stakeholders have the ability to influence food systems: producers, farmers, the industry, governments, civil society organisations, but also the consumers. Importantly, we need to ensure that food systems respond to the needs of all people. But are we really seeing this today? Specifically, are we focusing on the nutritional needs of children and young people? The first 1,000 days of life as well as adolescence have been identified as crucial periods for the mental and physical development of young people, and therefore a healthy diet is essential.

A call to Action

Did you know that:

  • At least 1 in 3 children under 5 suffers from malnutrition – including stunting, wasting and overweight?
  • The impact of malnutrition goes beyond affecting one’s health – there are clear development, economic and social repercussions associated with it?
  • Globalisation, urbanisation, climate change and humanitarian crises all exacerbate malnutrition globally?

UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2019 report calls for a need to put children’s nutrition right first:

  1. Empower families, children and young people to demand nutritious food
  2. Drive food suppliers to do the right thing for children
  3. Build healthy food environments for all children
  4. Mobilise supportive systems – health, water and sanitation, education and social protection – to scale up nutrition results for all children.
  5. Collect, analyse and use good-quality data and evidence regularly to guide action and track progress.


How can you get involved?

It’s time for a new narrative. Access to safe, sustainable and nutritious food is a fundamental human right. We need to empower young people and their families to make healthier, more sustainable and conscious food choices. We need to ensure that food systems are equipped to address the above-mentioned challenges. We need to make sure global food systems respond to the needs of all people.

Get your artistic cap on! This year, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations calls on young people aged 5 to 19 years old to design a poster that exemplifies what you think neds to be done to make healthy diets available for everyone and how each one of us can work to improve our diets. Interested in participating in the contest? Click here (deadline for entry is 8th November 2019)! In December, a jury will select three winners in each age category, and they will be promoted by FAO offices for a surprise! 


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