World Food Day: seven steps towards zero hunger

University of Sydney academics offer their solutions to achieving zero hunger in recognition of World Food Day on October 16.

The university reports that its experts are calling for action to improve life for the 820 million people suffering from chronic undernourishment worldwide.

This could be done with the following steps, University of Sydney academics explain:

  1. Identifying hidden hunger

Dr Sinead Boylan, from the School of Public Health and the Charles Perkins Centre, said World Food Day 2018 acts as a reminder that by 2030 world hunger must be wiped out to achieve the sustainable development goal of zero hunger.

“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 per cent of our daily energy comes from junk foods,” said Boylan.

“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,” she said.

  1. Ensuring food security for all

Professor Vicki Flood, from the Faculty of Health Sciences, said that 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.

“The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that approximately 3.7 per cent 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, people living with a disability, older people, homeless people, single parent households and young adults that have recently moved away from the family home, said Flood.

“People who are food insecure tend to have diets with lower nutrient density, putting them at risk for nutrient deficiencies.

“World Food Day provides an opportunity to focus on this problem in our society,” said Flood.

  1. Challenging the big providers

Dr Alana Mann, from the Department of Media and Communications and the Sydney Institute of Agriculture, said food has gone viral, from campaigns against genetically modified organisms to local, sustainable and farm-to-table dining.

In Australia 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,” she said.

“As more and more farmers leave the land, Australia’s food security is increasingly under threat.

The market needs to be made fair across the board, said Mann.

  1. Reducing waste by growing your own

Dr Nick Fuller, from Sydney Medical School and the Boden Institute of Obesity, said in the modern day time-poor environment people often opted for convenient and processed foods, which are low in nutrition.

But food is better when prepared at home which is cheaper can more enjoyable, said Fuller.

“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,” said Fuller.

  1. Promoting healthier diets

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

“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,” said Jones.

“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,” said Jones.

  1. Making healthy food affordable

Professor Louise Baur, head of Child and Adolescent Health from Sydney Medical School, said a healthy food intake during pregnancy, and in early life, is vital for the health and well-being of children, and the future health of adults.

“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,” said Baur.

  1. Making food sustainable

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

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