The Covid-19 pandemic has brought many issues to the forefront – and one of them was food. Throughout the lockdown, countless people and organizations had taken up the noble task of feeding people who didn’t have access to adequate food – especially migrant labourers already affected by the loss of livelihoods. To bring awareness to these issues such as highlighting the section of the world population facing extreme hunger, ensure adequate diets and sustainable farming practices – World Food Day is celebrated every year on 16th October.
The day marks the establishment of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in 1945. The main goal of World Food Day is to promote the message that food is a basic and fundamental human right. The theme for 2020 was “Grow, nourish, sustain. Together. Our actions are our future” which was decided to keep in mind the suffering of millions during the pandemic. But 2021 seeks to honour the food heroes too, people who have made significant contributions in bringing about sustainable food practices. The theme is – “Our actions are our future. Better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life.” It also calls upon everyone to contribute to the cause: “Reduce our food waste to help: Fight food insecurity, Protect precious resources, reduce our carbon footprint, save money & energy, Consume more consciously.”
There is also an emphasis on the Sustainable Agri-Food System, which the FAO says, is the need of the hour. “A sustainable agri-food system is one in which a variety of sufficient, nutritious and safe foods is available at an affordable price to everyone, and nobody is hungry or suffers from any form of malnutrition. Less food is wasted and the food supply chain is more resilient to shocks such as extreme weather, price spikes or pandemics, all the while limiting, rather than worsening, environmental degradation or climate change.” – the organization states.
UN also held the World Food Systems Summit on 23rd September 2021 to leverage on achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, one of which was to eradicate hunger.
The FAO website highlighted the statistics on the issues of hunger, lack of proper nourishment and food wastage. “More than 3 Billion people, almost 40% of the world’s population cannot afford a healthy diet.” In the Indian context, the issue of hunger becomes even more profound as India slipped to 101 in 2021 from its earlier ranking of 94 in 2020 in the World Hunger Index, which tracks hunger and malnutrition. India trails behind our neighbours including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal while 18 countries including China, Brazil and Kuwait shared the top spot.
Amid the aggravated global food insecurity, the UN Food Programme and its contributions were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020 “for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict”.
The FAO also highlights the drastic impact of COVID-19 in the worsening of global food insecurity and calls for everyone’s attention towards addressing it – #WorldFoodDay 2021 will be marked a second time while countries around the world deal with the widespread effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has underlined that an urgent change of route is needed. It has made it even harder for farmers – already grappling with climate variability and extremes – to sell their harvests, while rising poverty is pushing an increased number of city residents to use food banks, and millions of people require emergency food aid.