The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) of the United Nations have highlighted the need to step up efforts to end malnutrition, and ensure food security and healthy diets for all. The two UN agencies call on all sectors, the government, public sector representatives, farmers, businesses and the public to make nutrition and healthy diets a priority.
World Food Day is a day not only to highlight global efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 – Zero Hunger, but also to underline the important role of food and agriculture in achieving the overall 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In recent decades, people have dramatically changed their diets and eating patterns as result of globalisation, urbanisation and income growth. They have moved from seasonal, mainly plant-based and fibre-rich dishes to high calorie diets, which are high in refined starches, sugar, fats, salt, processed foods, meat and other animal-source products.
A combination of unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles have sent overweight and obesity rates soaring in Sri Lanka and around the world.
Sri Lanka is facing a triple burden of malnutrition, with stagnant rates of under-nutrition combined with growing obesity.
In the recent years, while the prevalence of under-nutrition such as wasting and stunting in young children has remained more or less the same, prevalence of overweight and obesity in school children and adults have increased.
For instance, 45 percent of women of reproductive age (15-49 years) are either overweight or obese.
The FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Xuebing Sun said, “The public appetite for a better food system is strong.
That is clear from consumers’ growing interest in where their food is coming from and how it is produced.
That demand can catalyse positive results in the nutrition arena from urging the government to make nutritious foods available, accessible and affordable, and encouraging the private sector to produce healthier food.”
Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, K.D.S. Ruwanchandra recognised the need to reorient agricultural priorities to focus more on nutritional quality and diversity, to meet the nutritional needs of a growing population.
“Moving away from high-yielding crop production to producing a diversity of nutritious food such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts is important. It can, not only contribute to a balanced diet, but can also help farmers become resilient to climate change and produce food according to the demands in the local and international market,” he said.
WFP Deputy Country Head for Sri Lanka, Andrea Berardo said, “As WFP celebrates 50 years in Sri Lanka, we must look to the future.
Thus it is vitally important to engage the young generation to make informed decisions about their diet and lifestyle, as the decisions of today affect the future of tomorrow. We also believe that youth can become change-makers and advocates for healthy diets, thus helping to create a healthy Sri Lanka where everyone has access to safe and nutritious food.” Over 100 schoolchildren and teachers, representatives of the Government, key stakeholders including fellow UN agencies, private sector and development organisations took part in the World Food Day 2019 national event. Former Sri Lanka cricketer and ICC Match Referee Roshan Mahanama shared his personal insights on the benefits of healthy eating for an active and productive life.
The messages shared at this year’s event reflected that the importance of making healthy, informed food choices is about not only addressing hunger, but also nourishing people while nurturing the planet.