Cooking for Zero Hunger

by Chef Gastón Acurio

Some 800 million people around the world started 2017 on an empty stomach. Even in my native Peru, a country of abundance, renowned for its biodiversity and great cuisine, many children are still undernourished. It is hard to believe, and indeed to accept, that humankind has not yet been able to win the fundamental battle to ensure that everyone, every day, has access to healthy and sustainable food. The time has come when this long-delayed task cannot be postponed any longer.

Gastón Acurio

By adopting the Sustainable Development Agenda — whose Goal number 2 on Zero Hunger envisages the end of hunger by 2030 — governments committed to put an end to this problem and make sure they achieve food security for everyone, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Tackling this challenge requires the combined efforts of three powerful actors: public authorities, with their political actions; the private sector, with its capacity to create business and innovate; and academia, with its solid foundations of knowledge and wisdom. Moreover, it requires everyone on the planet to understand that the well-being of all is the best way to achieve one’s own, and that all of us, through our everyday actions and choices, not only can but must do our part.

This might look like a titanic effort, but the goal is within our reach. Promoting and valuing crop diversity, and empowering smallholder farmers so that their products can reach the markets are key steps on the way to declaring the world free of hunger.

Because of the very nature of our work, we chefs must be at the forefront of this fight. In Peru we had a great experience showing how chefs can become actors for change and how cuisine can usher in social integration, economic progress and unity. Thanks to the efforts of a group of engaged chefs, farmers, fisherpeople and artisans, cuisine has promoted unity and pride in a nation as diverse as ours; it has contributed to the country’s development and has become well known and appreciated the world over.

Those of us who have the wonderful responsibility of feeding others from our kitchens — whether we are restaurant chefs, mothers or school cooks — have a great power to initiate change in the market and advance a food culture based on the principles of sustainability and diversity.

We can choose local ingredients and save from oblivion those traditional plant varieties that have been abandoned in the name of an ill-conceived idea of progress. We can prioritize products from family farms, which may not meet the aesthetic standards dictated by the markets, but contribute to strengthening the smallholders who farm their land with love and wisdom.

If we use cooking as a tool to recover our values, our memories, and our ability to find pleasure in what we have around us, we will be able to make a powerful contribution to the battle we are now fighting. We will be able to achieve, at last, a world with Zero Hunger.

* Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio has been acknowledged the world over for generating a food revolution within and outside his country. He has joined forces with the World Food Programme (WFP) and Telefónica Peru’s Juntos para Transformar to promote an intersectoral initiative for healthy, local, nutritious, sustainable and accessible food, with the goal of reaching Zero Hunger in Peru. This effort is part of the global “Healthy not Hungry” campaign to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger.

Gastón Acurio is a chef, businessman and the main promoter of Peruvian cuisine. With 33 restaurants in 12 countries, 20 publications and a weekly TV show, Acurio has been acknowledged the world over for launching Peru’s food revolution.

The “Healthy not Hungry” campaign, a joint initiative of the World Food Programme (WFP), Project Everyone and UNICEF. The campaign focuses on the close relationship between ending hunger and the ability to live a healthy, active and full life.