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World Food Day
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World Food Day: 7 steps towards #ZeroHunger

16 October 2018
University of Sydney academics offer their solutions
On the eve of World Food Day, our experts are calling for action to improve life for the 820 million people suffering from chronic undernourishment worldwide.

Our experts have outlined seven steps we can take in Australia to tackle world hunger in response to the 2018 World Food Day theme 'Our Actions are our Future: A #ZeroHunger world by 2030 is possible'.

1. Identifying hidden hunger

“World Food Day 2018 acts as a reminder that by 2030 we must wipe out world hunger if we are to achieve the second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 2) of Zero Hunger”, explains Dr Sinead Boylan, from the School of Public Health and the Charles Perkins Centre.

“Why is this relevant to Australia? Hidden hunger exists in Australia, with almost one-third of Indigenous Australians living in remote areas reporting they have had run out of food in the last 12 months and could not afford to buy more. The Sustainable Development Goal also focuses on improved nutrition which is highly relevant to Australia, given that almost two-thirds of our adults are overweight or obese and that 35 percent of our daily energy comes from ‘junk foods’.

“We all have a role to play in helping to achieve SDG 2, but what does this mean for me as a public health nutritionist? To pull the estimated 850 million people out of starvation, we need to work with not only food producers, processors, retailers, and consumers, but governments at all levels and across sectors.”

2. Ensuring food security for all

“In Australia, World Food Day highlights the need to support food security for all people, meaning that everyone has physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets dietary needs and food preferences for a healthy life,” says Professor Vicki Flood from the Faculty of Health Sciences.

“The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that approximately 3.7 percent of people live in food insecure households, but this is much higher among vulnerable population groups.

People at risk of food insecurity in Australia include:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (22 percent, and 31 percent in remote areas)
  • People living with a disability
  • Older people (particularly older women)
  • Homeless people
  • Young adults recently moved away from the family home
  • Single parent households

“People who are food insecure tend to have diets with lower nutrient density, putting them at risk for nutrient deficiencies. The levels of food insecurity reported in national surveys are likely to be an underestimate, and this is indicated in other more detailed studies of food insecurity.  World Food Day provides an opportunity to focus on this problem in our society. Solutions to food insecurity are complex, and require multi-sectoral approach to support people at risk.”

3. Challenging the big providers

Dr Alana Mann from the Department of Media and CommunicationsSydney Institute of Agriculture and the Charles Perkins Centre suggests that "food has gone viral, from campaigns against genetically modified organisms to local, sustainable, ‘farm-to-table’ dining."

"Power in food systems is now strongly embedded in the retail sector. People have to eat, and purchasing patterns suggest people prefer supermarket produce because this is what most people buy – this is no surprise, given the lack of alternative foodways on offer to the average eater," she says.

"In Australia, the second most concentrated grocery market in the world after New Zealand, the illusion of choice and rhetoric of driving prices ‘down, down, down’ is having a catastrophic impact on farmer livelihoods, particularly in times of drought. Governments lack the political will to challenge the ‘Colesworth’ duopoly, despite claims from farmers that at the end of the day they are unlikely to cover their costs, let alone make a profit. As more and more farmers leave the land, Australia’s food security is increasingly under threat.

"The crisis of our food system is fundamentally a crisis of democracy. Making food fair for both producers and eaters is about addressing the structural inequality in an economic system that is fundamentally undemocratic."

4. Reducing waste by growing your own

“In the modern day time-poor environment we often see ourselves reaching for convenient and processed foods, which are low in nutrition. But food is always better when prepared at home –  it’s cheaper, more enjoyable and healthier," explains Dr Nick Fuller from Sydney Medical School and the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders at the Charles Perkins Centre.

"'Interval Weight Loss For Life’ is a translation of science so that people know what to eat and so they can learn the joys of preparing and cooking nutritious meals in their own home.

“It doesn’t have to be hard – you can rely on cooking with just a few ingredients and even growing some staples in your own home. There is so much joy and much less waste from growing your own vegetables. You also don’t need to be in the kitchen for every meal – after all, no one has time for that. Use leftovers from dinner for lunch the following day or cook in batches on the weekend.”

5. Promoting healthier diets

“This World Food Day is about ending global hunger and about ending malnutrition in all its forms," says Alexandra Jones from Sydney Medical School and the Charles Perkins Centre.

"More people are now obese in the world than underweight and our food systems must be reoriented to produce healthy and sustainable food for all.

“In households everywhere, from Australia to India, we see families experiencing a mix of diet-related health conditions, some of which are linked to not getting enough essential nutrients like vitamin A, iodine and iron, and others linked to excessive consumption of things like salt, sugar and harmful fats.

“While we all like to think we’re in control of what we eat, our choices are heavily shaped by our food environment. As a lawyer, there is much we can do to promote healthier population diets. Regulation can be used to improve food labels, restrict unhealthy marketing, and impose price incentives (like sugar taxes or subsidies on fruit and vegetables) to make it easier for us to make healthier choices.”

6. Making healthy food affordable

“A healthy food intake during pregnancy, and in early life, is vital for the health and well-being of our children, and the future health of adults," says Professor Louise Baur AM, Professor and Head of Child and Adolescent Health from Sydney Medical School and the Charles Perkins Centre.

"We need to encourage and support breastfeeding. We should also ensure that nutritious foods – fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meat, eggs, nuts and legumes, as well as dairy foods – are both affordable and made available especially to pregnant women, children and those living in remote communities.”

7. Making food sustainable

“The Sydney Institute of Agriculture is working hard on new cultivars of wheat that are heat and drought tolerant," explains Professor Richard Trethowan, Director of the Plant Breeding Institute in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences.

"With heterosis – the enhancement that comes from hybrid varieties – we are hopeful we can lift the annual incremental yield increase from 2 percent to 10 percent. This will help meet the growing demand for wheat in the developing world.”

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