World Food Day

Yesterday was World Food Day. This is an international day celebrated every year worldwide on 16 October to commemorate the date of the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization or the UN FAO in 1945. The day is celebrated widely by many other organisations concerned with hunger and food security, including the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. WFP received the Nobel Prize in Peace for 2020 for their efforts to combat hunger, contribute to peace in conflict areas, and for playing a leading role in stopping the use of hunger in the form of a weapon for war and conflict.  

World Food Day (WFD) was established by FAO’s Member Countries at the Organization’s 20th General Conference in November 1979. The Hungarian Delegation, led by the former Hungarian Minister of Agriculture and Food Dr Pál Romány, played an active role at the 20th Session of the FAO Conference and suggested the idea of celebrating the WFD worldwide. It has since been observed every year in more than 150 countries, raising awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger.

Millions of people around the world cannot afford a healthy diet, putting them at high risk of food insecurity and malnutrition. But ending hunger isn’t only about supply. Enough food is produced today to feed everyone on the planet. The problem is access and availability of nutritious food, which is increasingly impeded by multiple challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, climate change, inequality, rising prices and international tensions. People around the world are suffering the domino effects of challenges that know no borders.

Worldwide, 75% of poor and food-insecure people rely on agriculture and natural resources for their living. They are usually the hardest hit by natural and man-made disasters and are often marginalised due to their gender, ethnic origin, or status. It is a struggle for them to gain access to training, finance, innovation and technologies. Our globalised world is one where our economies, cultures, and populations are becoming increasingly interconnected. Some of us are vulnerable because of who we are or where we live, but the reality is that we are all fragile. When someone is left behind, a chain is broken. This impacts not only the life of that person but also ours.

In the face of global crises, global solutions are needed more than ever. By aiming for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, we can transform agrifood systems and build forward better by implementing sustainable and holistic solutions that consider development in the long term, inclusive economic growth, and greater resilience.

The theme for 2022 is “Safer food, better health” which stresses that the production and consumption of safe food have immediate and long-term benefits for people, the planet, and the economy. Safe food is essential to human health and well-being and is one of the most critical guarantors of good health. The benefits of safe food include improved nutrition and reduced absenteeism in schools and the workplace. Foodborne diseases affect 1 in 10 people worldwide each year. There are over 200 of these diseases, ranging from diarrhoea to cancers.

On this day, WHO calls for a set of specific actions in multiple sectors to make food safer. Policymakers need to support policy measures to strengthen national food safety systems and ensure they comply with food safety standards, as well as engage in multi-sectoral collaboration at the local, national, regional and global levels. Food businesses must comply with international food standards and engage employees, suppliers and other stakeholders to grow and develop a food safety culture. At the same time, educational institutions and workplaces need to promote safe food handling and support food safety. And consumers need to practice safe food handling at home and keep informed and promote food safety.

Every year, a large number of events – from marathons and hunger marches to exhibitions, cultural performances, contests and concerts – are organised in around 150 countries across the world to celebrate World Food Day. To take part in World Food Day, spread the word, take part in some food tastings or cooking demonstrations or just make something in your kitchen and be creative.

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