World Food Day is observed on Oct. 16 and serves as a reminder that we all play a role in creating a healthier, more sustainable and resilient food system. The food system includes all of the people, resources and activities needed to get food from the field to our tables, and beyond.
As you can imagine, the food system is vast and includes food heroes such as farmers, truckers, food processors, food safety inspectors, grocery store owners and workers and chefs. Our natural resources, such as our water supply and soil, are also a part of our food system.
The way we treat our food system workers and use our natural resources impacts our health and our environment’s sustainability. Resilience in a food system means it will provide for our needs under ever-changing conditions, and be there for future generations. Because all of us are consumers or eaters, we all are actors in the food system. Thus, we all play a role.
The observance of World Food Day began in 1979 to commemorate the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Events in 150 countries around the world are designed to raise awareness and prompt action for those suffering from hunger and to support the ability of all people to have a healthy diet. According to the FAO, over 2 billion people do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food.
The need for World Food Day to prompt action is even more vital, amid the COVID-19. Already, nearly 690 million people are hungry, up 10 million since 2019. But, the FAO estimates that the pandemic could add 83 million to 132 million more people to this number, depending on the economic growth scenario.
This year’s World Food Day theme is “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together.” Efforts to help ensure that our food systems grow a variety of food to nourish a growing population and sustain the planet, together, can be undertaken by countries and the private sector – but also by us as individuals. Let’s look at how each of these words may be applied as we recognize that our actions are our future.
Grow. Growing food in a home garden provides many benefits, including improved health, high quality and quantity production of healthy foods, enhanced social networks and cultural sharing, and community healing and transformation. The National Gardening Association reported that one out of three households in the U.S. grew food in 2013, representing 42 million homes. Moreover, there has been a nationwide food garden resurgence during the current pandemic. You can join this movement and begin growing some of your own food, even if it’s with a very small home garden or few plants on your patio. Learn how by tapping into the Extension Master Gardeners‘ knowledge.
Nourish. Choose healthy, diverse and seasonal foods. A healthy diet includes moderation, variety and balance. A healthy meal pattern includes plenty of plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, grains; a variety of protein foods, including meat and its plant-based alternatives (legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy); and dairy foods or their calcium-fortified plant-based alternatives. As a consumer, you can choose to eat according to the seasons to help reduce the amount of resources needed to bring foods from afar.
Eating a variety of diverse foods will help drive their demand and help ensure agricultural biodiversity is favored. Agricultural biodiversity helps promote sustainability of our food supply and availability of a broader selection of foods to promote good nutrition. According to the FAO, today only nine plant species account for 66% of total crop production, despite the fact that there are at least 30,000 edible plants. You can learn more about healthy eating through Extension’s Healthy Eating portal.
Sustain. Choose local foods. You can help strengthen your local food system by shopping at farmers markets. There, farmers and local vendors sell their fresh, high-quality foods for fair prices that honor their efforts and the care put into growing and making delicious, nutritious food. You can also look for the NevadaGrown or Buy Nevada logos to be assured you’re supporting Nevada farmers and food businesses. Many farmers markets now accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits (including food vouchers), and you can find out more by visiting Extension’s SNAP Into Farm Fresh Foods webpage.
Together. Learn about and join initiatives. A great place to meet people and learn more about healthy, sustainable and resilient food systems is at a food policy council meeting. There is the Governor’s Council on Food Security, the Washoe County Health District’s Food Policy Council and the Southern Nevada Food Council. All three food councils have meetings open to the public (either in-person or virtual). The Extension Healthy Food Systems team provides resources and educational opportunities, such as food-system field trips and food preservation classes. Check to expand your knowledge and skills as a food citizen.
How will you celebrate World Food Day? The World Food Day website has some great resources and information to help you take action. Even small steps make a difference, and World Food Day is a great time to start!