Every year World Food Day is observed on October 16 as a reminder of the importance and value of food in a world where billions lack access to food. The day marks the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a UN agency responsible for monitoring the situation of food availability around the globe and sound timely warnings of shortages occurring anywhere.
World Food Day is celebrated by organizations, like the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agriculture Development. But this year the day was jointly observed by organizations, like FAO, UNHCR and the UN Refugee Agency. This year’s events took place in around 150 countries across the world with multiple partners and government involvement.
Originally, the day was marked to celebrate the establishment of FAO in the year 1979, as recommended by former Hungarian minister of agriculture and food Dr. Pal Romany. However, with the passage of time, it led to raising awareness about the issues of hunger, malnutrition, sustainability, and food production. It also aims to tackle global hunger and eradicate hunger across the globe.
The theme for World Food Day 2021 was “Safe food now for a healthy tomorrow”. The theme of this year was based on appreciating the individuals who have contributed to creating sustainable surroundings where no one is left hungry. Last year’s theme was based on the suffering of millions of people during the coronavirus pandemic.
World Food Day 2021 celebrations began with a global event where participants noted that while the challenges of global hunger, climate crisis and COVID-19 remain formidable, there is also a new awareness and momentum and energy behind efforts to transform our agri-food systems, so that there is enough for everyone’s need in the world.
A UN Food Systems Summit was held in September which discussed plans and strategies about how food is presently produced, distributed and consumed across the globe and how the world should move forward to reshape and improve the situation.
Addressing the World Food Day celebrations, QU Dongyu, Director-General of FAO, said: “Together, we have been rolling up our sleeves to lead the implementation and drive the transformation.” He also pointed to the contribution made by the World Food Forum convened recently in Rome – a global movement that seeks to harness the energy and creativity of young people to shape a better future for our food. Qu said that this year’s World Food Day finds the world at a critical moment. Despite difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, “In the past year we have also witnessed the resilience and strength within each of us.” In particular, he paid tribute to “all food heroes around the world who continued to work against all the odds to ensure we had food to eat.”
Hundreds of millions of people worldwide are afflicted by hunger and that number has increased to over 800 million now. That’s despite the fact that the world produces sufficient food to feed everyone. In this context, it is sad to note that 14 percent of food produced today is lost, and 17 percent is wasted. This is a criminal neglect on the part of those involved – both governments and individuals.
Pope Francis in his message on the occasion said: “We are currently witnessing a real paradox in terms of access to food: on the one hand, more than three billion people do not have access to a nutritious diet, while on the other hand, almost two billion are overweight or obese due to a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle.”
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in his address: “The way we produce, consume and waste food is taking a heavy toll on our planet. It is putting historic pressure on our natural resources, climate and natural environment — and costing us trillions of dollars a year.” But “the power to change is in our hands,” he added.
There is a consensus of opinion among experts that currently the world is facing unprecedented challenges to global food security. According to them, we can only succeed in ending hunger if we ensure our global food systems are improved to meet the needs of the twenty-first century. There is an urgent need to strengthen food systems so they support healthy diets for everyone — especially the most vulnerable communities.
It has been rightly said that the transformation of our agri-food systems must start with the education of ordinary consumers – the daily choices they make about the foods they consume, where they buy them, how they are packaged, how much is thrown away. All these impact our agri-food systems and are crucial to our efforts to end world hunger. The time for action is now.