Around 40% of all produced food is wasted at the household level: Dr. Rezzan

ISLAMABAD: The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations celebrates World Food Day each year on October 16. The 2017 World Food Day theme is “Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development.”

This theme is relevant to Pakistan, with our large rural population and the high level of urban poverty. Food insecurity, which can be defined as being unable to consistently access or afford adequate food, is a common occurrence in Pakistan with around half of households experiencing food insecurity. This is shameful as access to good, clean, healthy food should be seen as a basic human right.

Periodic hunger seriously damages the growth of children in particular with food deprivation at a young age leading to reduced brain and organ development, and long-term health complications. Thus, the costs to our society extend far beyond today, and lead to all manner of health, psychological and development-limiting challenges that extend over the entire lifetime of the children who suffer food insecurity today.

Dr. Rezzan Khan, Head of Clinical Nutrition Department SIH said that “In my role as a Dietitian Nutritionist, I recognize the importance of alleviating food insecurity. As dietary habits change, policy makers and health professionals need to help educate the people about healthy eating and its environmental impact. In order to maintain adequate energy intake, people who must limit food costs will select lower quality diets consisting of high-energy, inexpensive foods containing excessive refined grains, added sugars, and fats. While less expensive, energy-dense foods typically have lower nutritional quality and, because of overconsumption of calories, have been linked to obesity. Poor people tend to become fat, due to poor food choices, which cause expensive health problems like diabetes, she shared.

Social protection plays a huge role in reducing chronic food insecurity and poverty by ensuring direct access to food or the means to buy food. Simply inadequate resources for food can lead to food insecurity. When hunger is recurrent, it results in undernutrition. High cost of foods, low paying jobs, poor transportation infrastructure for even distribution of foods and lack of nutritional education are the main barriers to the consumption of healthy food.

Food waste is a serious problem. In developed countries, around 40% of all produced food is wasted at the household level, where it is simply thrown out

In developing counties like Pakistan, food is mostly lost during the production-to-processing stages of the food supply chain. It is either harvested too early (as the farmers suffer from food deficiency or the desperate need for cash) or never makes it to the market and spoils due to lack of infrastructure for transportation, storage, cooling and markets. Improving the farm-to-market infrastructure would not only reduce food insecurity, it would also reduce pressures on the environment.

In recognition of World Food Day 2017, Shifa International Hospital set up a nutrition camp for assessment of nutritional status of people. Dietitians gave them simplified dietary advice on taking adequate energy and nutrients to prevent chronic diseases and malnutrition. It was open to public from 10am to 4pm at SIH and visited by 300 people of all age.

A well-managed diet that reduces waste, and boosts nutrient-rich food by proper nutrition education and practice can help prevent and even reverse the food insecurity and related health-problems. We need to tackle this challenge as a society, but there are actions that we can take as individuals to improve food choices, reduce waste and contribute to improved food security for those around us.