by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: World hunger

Jun 6 2019

Food industry: efforts to fight hunger?

I keep saying that food companies are not social service or public health agencies and should not be viewed as such.  They are businesses, and everything they do must aim to promote sales and returns to investors.

BakeryandSnacks.com, an industry newsletter to which I subscribe, has collected several of its articles on the anti-hunger activities of its member companies.  Is this public health or public relations?  Read and decide.

Jan 16 2019

Bad news on world hunger and obesity: they are getting worse

United Nations agencies have just released their annual report on world food insecurity.

Its main unhappy conclusion:

Food insecurity has increased since 2014:

So has worldwide obesity:

What is to be done?

Alas, that’s not what this report is about.

Jun 29 2018

Rebooting food: technological solutions to world hunger

Lots of people are worried about how we are going to feed people in the future and are thinking about possible solutions to problems of world hunger.  Hence: Rebooting Food from the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

You can guess from the title that the report is about technological solutions.  It begins:

Banana trees that fit in a test tube. Burgers made without a cow in sight. Fish farmed in the desert. Robots picking fruit. Welcome to the brave new world of food, where scientists are battling a global time-bomb of climate change, water scarcity, population growth and soaring obesity rates to find new ways to feed the future.

I wish the report had said more about the social and political causes of world hunger, and the need for social and political action to reduce income and other inequalities.

But if you want a quick overview of current thinking on food technology, this report is a good introduction.

Dec 8 2017

Weekend reading: Global Nutrition Report—“The nutrition situation is grave”

The annual Global Nutrition Report on progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has just arrived.

It does not provide much good news.

The report views the SDGs as an opportunity to make commitments to improve this situation.

I wish I were more optimistic.

Oct 6 2017

Weekend reading: Nutrition and Food Systems

HLPE [High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition]. Nutrition and food systems. A report by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security, Rome, 2017.

This report takes a food systems approach to recommendations for reducing the double burden of malnutrition—obesity in the presence of widespread hunger and its consequences.

This report aims to analyse how food systems influence diets and nutrition. It offers three significant additions to previous frameworks. First, it emphasizes the role of diets as a core link between food systems and their health and nutrition outcomes. Second, it highlights the central role of the food environment in facilitating healthy and sustainable consumer food choices. Third, it takes into account the impacts of agriculture and food systems on sustainability in its three dimensions (economic, social and environmental). 2. A food system gathers all the elements (environment, people, inputs, processes, infrastructures, institutions, etc.) and activities that relate to the production, processing, distribution, preparation and consumption of food, and the outputs of these activities, including socio-economic and environmental outcomes. This report pays specific attention to nutrition and health outcomes of food systems. It identifies three constituent elements of food systems, as entry and exit points for nutrition: food supply chains; food environments; and consumer behaviour.

Nov 12 2014

The New York Times does Food for Tomorrow

I attended the first day of the New York Times’ Food for Tomorrow conference at Stone Barns, worth the trip to hear Mark Bittman’s inspiring keynote.  My summary: feeding the growing world’s population is not about increasing food production; it’s about ending poverty.

Fortunately, the Times is making videos of the sessions available online.

But never mind all that.  Check out Bittman’s  speech.

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 16 2013

Today is World Food Day: Perspectives

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has organized a series of Perspectives on World Food Day.

Mine is titled “A Push for Sustainable Food Systems.”  It’s illustrated with cartoons from Eat, Drink, Vote.

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From my perspective as a public health nutritionist, this year’s theme for World Food Day,Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition, seems especially appropriate.  Food insecurity and obesity are the most important nutrition problems in the world today.  Each affects roughly a billion people.  Each is a consequence of food system inequities.

Most countries produce or import enough food for the needs of their populations, but do not always ensure that it is equitably distributed.  Because many people lack resources to obtain adequate food on a reliable basis, hunger is a matter of politics.  Political conflict, insufficient responses to natural disasters, corrupt institutions, and inequalities in income and education constitute the “root” causes of malnutrition.  It’s not enough to distribute food to hungry people.  Governments should take actions to redress system inequities that lead to hunger in the first place.

Similarly, the causes of obesity go beyond the poor food choices of individuals.  Obesity is one result of an industrialized and unsustainable food system that treats agricultural products as commodities, uses most of these products  to feed animals or produce fuel for automobiles, provides little support to farmers who produce fruits and vegetables, and provides endless incentives for overproduction.

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The result is an overabundant food system dependent on the sales of meat and obesity-promoting snack and beverage products, and on marketing such products to populations in low-income countries. Much evidence confirms that individuals find it difficult to resist food marketing pressures on their own.  If countries are to prevent rising rates of obesity, governments must intervene.

The extent to which governments should be involved in the food choices of individuals is a matter of debate.  Making sure people are fed is one function of government; another is promoting public health.  Because research demonstrates profound effects of food marketing on personal dietary choices, governments can set policies that make healthful choices the easier choices such as promoting fruit and vegetable production and setting limits on marketing practices, not least to reduce health care costs.

Whether the world can continue to produce enough food to meet growing population needs is questionable, but the need for sustainable food systems is not.  Governments must support food systems that provide farmers and workers with a reasonable standard of living, replenish soil nutrients, conserve natural resources, and minimize pollution and greenhouse gases—and promote health.  Governments and corporations must go beyond perceptions of food as a fungible commodity to understand food as an essential source of life, and firmly link agricultural policies to those for health, labor, and the environment. If politicians cannot commit to policies to reverse global warming, then ordinary citizens will have to take action.  And they are rising to the occasion, as exemplified by today’s burgeoning food movement.

Oct 17 2012

The latest dismal report on world hunger

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has just released the latest iteration of its annual report on the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012.

It’s bottom line estimate: 870 million people in the world are hungry, 852 million of them in developing countries.

The good news is that this figure represents a decline of 132 million people from 1990-92 to 2010-12, or from 18.6 percent to 12.5 percent of the world’s population.  In developing countries, the decline is from 23.2 percent to 14.9 percent.

The not-so-good news: Since 2007-2008, global progress in reducing hunger has slowed and leveled off, and hunger in Africa has gotten worse.

Much of the press attention to the report yawned at the major message but instead focused on errors in the previous estimates, which were higher.

the projections were wrong. They were calculated using figures from non-U.N. sources that were fed into the U.N.’s number-crunching model, because FAO was expected to quickly come up with an estimate of how many people might go hungry from the dual crises of high food prices and the global downturn

The UN bases its hunger projections on figures on population, food supply, food losses, dietary energy requirements, food distribution, and other factors.

The report contains other bad news.  While 870 million people remain hungry, the world confronts a double burden of malnutrition: 1.4 billion people are dealing with the consequences of overweight and obesity.

Focusing on the need to address world hunger Sir Gordon Conway, Professor of International Development, Imperial College, London writes in the Huffington Post:

as I set out in my latest book One billion hungry: can we feed the world?, I believe there is reason for optimism. Yes we can feed the world, but only if we accept that agricultural development is the best route to achieving sustainable economic growth in developing countries, and achieve an agriculture that is highly productive, stable, resilient and equitable.

Sounds like a good plan to me.  Let’s get busy.