Nutrition for all: feeding the planet, energy for life
A PREDICTED FUTURE — A NEW PRESENT TO BUILD
2015 represented a pivotal year for the global community, starting from food and Italy.
It was back in 2015, when the second-to-last World Exposition in Milan, dedicated to food in all its dimensions under the topic “Feeding the Planet, Energy for life” was held. Stressing the common thread existing between food, the environment, nutrition, and human health, one of the greatest achievements of the 2015 Expo was in recognizing food as the basic common denominator underlying culture, peace, inclusion, safety, security, well-being, human rights, and dignity.
It is from this deep interconnectedness that Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Sì, must be read. Also in 2015, it called for a radical change of mentality to solve global plagues, such as hunger, and the urgency to consider the global community as one human family to ensure food for all.
The Expo in Milan, embodied in the Carta di Milano and Pope Francis’ Encyclical are concurrent to another central circumstance that marked 2015: the 2030 Agenda approved by the global community with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets. Again, food is clearly the fil rouge at the foundation of each Goal and Target, reminding us that we cannot achieve any form of sustainable development without fixing the paradoxes within and surrounding the food system.
Six years later, those warnings could not be more real.
Marked by a health pandemic that has radically overturned all forms of normalcy, making evident the leakages at the roots of the business-as-usual models, but also highlighting the close interconnection between people — planet and prosperity. We are all paying the price for careless development, extractive economies, and for-profit decisions.
The current climate emergency, exacerbated by a relentless loss in biodiversity, resource depletion, and widespread natural poisoning, is “feeding” economic losses and health weakening.
“The storm unmasks our vulnerability and leaves uncovered those false and superfluous securities with which we have built our agendas, our projects, our habits, and priorities. […] Greedy for gain, we have let ourselves be absorbed by things and dazed by haste. We have not stopped in front of your calls, we have not awakened in front of wars and planetary injustices, we have not listened to the cry of the poor and of our seriously ill planet. We have continued undaunted, thinking that we will always remain healthy in a sick world.” — Pope Francis.
2021 began as the year of action, not just of ambition and hope. With crucial achievements such as the EU Farm to Fork Strategy, the EU Biodiversity Strategy, and the return of the United States to the Paris Agreement, G20 appointments are marked with unusual multi-stakeholderism and cross-pollination of expertise. But most importantly, the call for a 2021 UN Food System Summit from UN Secretary-General António Guterres, designed to launch bold new actions to transform the way the world produces, consumes, and thinks about food clearly puts food at the center of action for solving the current crisis.
Both these last appointments give our country an incredible opportunity to drive real change, given the Italian presidency of the G20 and the co-presidency of the UN Food System Summit, which will be hosted (in the form of the Pre-Summit) in Rome from July 26 to 28.
Including food into national and international policies is more crucial than ever, beginning with its very first role: ensuring nutrition for all.
NUTRITION FOR ALL
Data on nutrition around the world illustrates a brutal reality.
In the 21st century, nearly 11 million people, one in five deaths globally, happen due to unbalanced food choices. The World Health Organization calls it the triple burden of malnutrition, including undernutrition, micronutrient-related malnutrition, excess weight, and obesity. With no country in the world being free from this plague, tackling nutrition is an undisputed urgency. Why?
Because food and nutrition are at the center of human survival, physical health, and well-being. Besides undernutrition and excess weight, inadequate amounts of vitamins and minerals are also directly associated with diet-related non-communicable diseases.
But nutrition is also intertwined with mental health, with increasing data stressing how nutritionally balanced diets such as the Mediterranean Diet provide protection against depression, anxiety, and elderly cognitive decline while increasing high levels of happiness.
Nutrition is also associated with how we treat the planet. If it is true that we are what we eat, we should question what we are really ingesting considering the rising levels of pollutants in soils, contaminants in water, and declining levels of natural and crop diversity.
This explains the direct relationship between nutrition and economic prosperity. Antibiotic resistance causes approximately 33,000 deaths a year in the EU, reveals the European Commission, costing our health system €1.5 billion a year.
Restoring sustainability in a holistic sense and pushing for policies able to embrace a One Health Approach means recognizing the deep interconnection of all the aspects of life.
ACCESS TO NUTRITION IS A MATTER OF AFFORDABILITY
One of the most evident barriers to nutrition access is price. In too many parts of the world quality food, such as fruit and vegetables, is considered a luxury, compared to much more convenient ultra-processed foods. Not only in developing countries but also in the richer US there are entire areas defined as food deserts or food apartheid, where a salad can cost up to 15 USD. These are aspects that are intertwined with multiple layers of complexities, such as modern lifestyles, hectic routines, lack of time, advancement of western diets, physical distance to nutritious food options, as well as cultural and social influences.
ACCESS TO NUTRITION IS A MATTER OF AVAILABILITY
Access to nutritious food cannot be achieved without contextual access to natural resources. Water, land, seeds are the necessary “ingredients” to ensure the production of quality food that needs to be both accessible and of good quality. This aspect is particularly evident in rural areas, still characterized by high levels of depopulation in favor of bigger cities, and insufficient infrastructure to ensure food sovereignty of the rural community. Empowering smallholders, female farmers, and rural farmers are at the heart of connecting urban and rural areas, food producers with consumers, but also people with nature.
ACCESS TO NUTRITION IS A MATTER OF ACCEPTABILITY
Low food literacy and market-based decisions are major causes of a drastic reduction in food diversification. With only nine crops accounting for a staggering 66% of all crop
production by weight, reduced food varieties result in dramatically low nutrient diversification.
But cultural acceptability also plays a central role in ensuring adequate access to nutrition, with an increasing number of younger generations associating indigenous fruits and ancient crops with shame.
It is especially on the occasion of the Ministers’ Meeting on the Environment, under the G20 framework, that Future Food Institute is officially presenting its concrete contribution to close the current nutrition gaps worldwide and weave together towards food systems able to ensure nutrition for all: the launch of the whitepaper Nutrition Unpacked. Part of the comprehensive agenda of official side events, recognized by ALL4CLIMATE ITALY of the Italian Minister for Ecological Transition and in partnership with Dole, this Food for Earth G20 Edition wants to ensure, directly broadcasted from Pollica, one of the seven emblematic communities of the Mediterranean Diet, that world leaders listen not only to voices representing government, business sectors, youth, women, civil society, and science, but also to the proposals and demands of those responsible for “Feeding the Planet,” feeders, farmers, and food producers, because the “great challenge of our era is to succeed in protecting our planet, by feeding humans in a healthy way and by taking care of the ecosystem that is hosting us.”
Unpacking nutrition requires collaborative efforts from each actor of the food system, merging grassroots movements with the precious efforts of leading food companies, policymakers, and farmers. Only this way will we feed the planet and ensure universal access to nutrition, leaving no one behind. Starting from here and now.
The Future Food Institute is an international social enterprise and the cornerstone of the Future Food Ecosystem, a collection of research labs, partnerships, initiatives, platforms, networks, entrepreneurial projects and academic programs, aiming to build a more equitable world through enlightening a world-class breed of innovators, boosting entrepreneurial potential, and improving agri-food expertise and tradition.
Future food advocates for positive change through initiatives in Waste & Circular Systems, Water Safety & Security, Climate, Earth Regeneration, Mediterranean Foodscape, Nutrition for All, Humana Communitas, and Cities of the Future as we catalyze progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
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