World Food Research and Innovation Forum – Achieving Nutrition Security for a Growing Population
5 November 2015
Significant progress has been made during the past decade to reduce chronic hunger worldwide, and sporadic hunger is on the decline. The focus on food production and availability has largely been to ensure adequate intake of foods from grains and proteins where possible. However, more than two billion persons continue to experience significant mal- or under-nutrition, including insufficient micro-nutrients such as zinc, iron, calcium, and certain vitamins. Nutrient-poor diets can lead to severe stunting in children and reduced productivity in adults, both of which can affect social structures and have negative impacts on economic development.
Intervention therapies (supplements, special foods) can address nutrient deficiencies, but the approach is not sustainable in many poor regions and communities: furthermore, there is growing evidence that dietary supplements can have little or no permanent benefit and if improperly taken can be damaging to health. Correcting the status-quo in nutrition security requires changing priorities diets through education and training, research and technologies, and favorable policies, including those that reduce poverty, including amongst small holder farmers.
While many societies promote a healthful diet that includes a diversity of foods that can reduce nutrient deficiencies, many nutrient-rich foods are not accessible. Furthermore food-based chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are growing problems in poor as well as in rich societies, where diversity is available but not accessible due to poverty.
While progress toward food security per se is laudable, it is critically important to recognize that much less progress has been made to ensure sufficient and affordable nutrient-rich food to many regions and societies. Achieving healthy diets requires attention to many parts of the food system: a focus on increased productivity through improved seeds, healthy soils, better management; technologies that reduce pre- and post-harvest losses of crops; and policies that foster economic success throughout the food value chain.
Making changes in food systems and agriculture policies to improve nutrition and thereby improve health and well-being, must be made a global priority. The Sustainable Development Goals (September, 2015) include strong focus on sustainable food and nutrition security. The World Food Center has initiated a project to track implementation of policies and practices that can lead to nutrition security with the goal to bring greater focus to the problem and encourage to encourage increased effort. to secure nutrition security around the globe. It is unacceptable that nutrient insecurity remain a problem in a 21st century world: greater attention to ending such insecurity is demanded of each of us.