World Food Day was established on October 16, 1979, the same date of the year as that of the founding of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1945. The purpose of World Food Day is to raise awareness about food poverty, hunger, and more sustainable agri-food systems around the globe. Currently, of all the special days observed by the UN, it is the one in which the most countries get involved, with over 150 of them participating in conversations, raising funds, hosting events, joining activities, educating communities, and demanding action from governments.
“Agri-food system” is a complex term used to describe the way in which all humans eat – from grocery stores and restaurants, to farms and even food wasted. Every society’s system looks different as factors such as extreme weather, price increases, pandemics, and long-term climate change all have a significant effect on an agri-food network.
As it currently stands, these crucial agri-food systems are in need of better and more sustainable food production to improve the nutrition and environments of the communities they serve. Over three billion people, which is roughly 40% of the world’s population, cannot afford a healthy and nutritious diet. And if this continues, with an estimated 10 billion people on the planet by 2050, our agri-food systems and society’s health at large will be in serious trouble if action is not taken now.
COVID-19 and Agri-Food Systems
Pre-pandemic hunger was already a significant issue for the UN, governments, and civil society. With an original goal of eradicating global hunger by 2015, the COVID-19 global pandemic seems to have halted the UN’s progress in helping find a cure for this global issue. The impacts of COVID-19 continue to be felt in most aspects of life, especially in countries that haven’t had immediate access to the vaccine.
One of the most significant effects of the pandemic is the Agriculture Commodity Price Index, showing a sharp increase of 35% in food prices and indicating both high food demand throughout the world as well as supply chain discrepancies that place extreme tension on the supply-and-demand relationship of food access. Price increases were seen across the board, even on traditionally cheap commodities like cereal, making households cut down on both the quantity and quality of their food sources. The lack of access to food continues to be a leading cause of world hunger – regardless of whether it is a supply chain discrepancy or the inability to meet the higher cost, caused by soaring unemployment rates.
Charities Creating Change
While there is plenty of work needed in order to create positive agri-food systems around the world, there are a few charities that continue to promote the access of a healthy diet around the world.
- Save the Children: This is an organization that believes every child deserves a healthy start, the opportunity to learn, and protection from harm, including the capability of growing up well nourished. It has frontline health teams across the world to deliver emergency hunger and nutrition programs to save vulnerable children, while constantly working on preventing malnutrition from the start.
- Women for Women: With the launch of its newest campaign, Serving Up Sisterhood, Women for Women aims to educate women around the world about the importance of food hygiene and nutrition so they can healthily feed their families. Furthermore, within this program, women also receive business training and a vocation skill, allowing them to start their own food-based businesses like selling honey, making yogurt, or farming their land. This further supports the complex agri-food system that the UN hopes to raise awareness about on World Food Day.
World Food Day: Getting Involved and Showing Support
There are many ways to get involved with World Food Day. From food tastings or cooking demonstrations to music performances, lectures, donations, or simply spreading the word, governments, private entities, individuals, and organizations all have options on how they choose to observe the day. Join the global #WorldFoodDay campaign by utilizing the FAO’s free digital materials to help raise awareness in your own social media community. Find more information about getting involved with World Food Day to help create more sustainable agri-food systems here: http://www.fao.org/world-food-day/communication-toolkit/en