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Healthy diets, healthy planet… Our actions are our future!

Oct 15,2019 - Last updated at Oct 15,2019

Every year, on the 16th of October, the international community celebrates World Food Day to promote worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and to highlight the need to ensure food security and nutritious diets for all.
This year’s World Food Day focuses on healthy diets, emphasising that Sustainable Development Goal 2 on Zero Hunger is not only about eliminating hunger but also about access to nutritious food for all while nurturing the planet. Both the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) are committed to achieving this.
Ensuring healthy diets for all is an increasingly complex challenge. Around the world, more than 800 million people suffer from hunger. Conflict and lack of security are key drivers. We see the impact of conflict here in Jordan, where a large proportion of Syrian refugees are not able to meet their food and nutrition needs independently. That’s why WFP supports 480,000 of them every month, providing cash payments with which they can buy food.
While hunger remains a major global issue, the combination of unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles has sent obesity rates soaring. Globally, more than 670 million adults and 120 million girls and boys (5-19 years old) are obese. Over 40 million children under 5 are overweight. The issue of obesity is no longer confined only to developed countries, but is also prevalent in low and middle-income countries, and hunger and obesity often coexist.
This can be also seen in Jordan, where around 8 per cent of children between 0 and 5 are underweight while 30 per cent of children between 5 and 19 are overweight and 12 per cent are obese.
Like many middle-income countries, Jordan is facing a growing burden of non-communicable diseases that are related to diet and lifestyle — for example, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Yet, the cost of treatment for most non-communicable diseases can be difficult for families to meet, particularly those living in poverty.
Sustainable solutions exist to reduce all forms of malnutrition and deliver healthier diets that contribute to well-being, prevent non-communicable diseases, promote biodiversity and lower the environmental footprint of food production. But they require greater global commitment to be fulfilled. Actions across sectors are needed to make healthy and sustainable diets affordable and accessible to everyone. These include the transformation of food systems in order to improve the diversity and availability of seasonal and local food, produced in an environmentally sustainable manner. Our generation is the first one that has the technical capacity to end hunger and the last one that has the chance of reversing climate change and it should take up the challenges faced to eradicate food insecurity.
More needs to be done to address the issue of food waste. Globally, one third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. This amounts to about 1.3 billion tonnes per year with a financial cost of around 1 trillion USD. It also represents a huge waste of energy, land and water resources, with enormous environmental consequences. WFP’s #StopTheWaste campaign aims to shine a spotlight on this issue and highlight the simple steps all of us can take to reduce food waste.
In Jordan, the potential to strengthen agricultural production and improve local food systems is significant. Currently, 3 per cent of the land is cultivated while more than 90 per cent of the food supply is imported. Yet, this potential is challenged by climate change, the scarcity of water and land degradation. It highlights the importance of developing agricultural practices that are environmentally sustainable and foster biodiversity. For instance, significant progress can be achieved by improving the nexus between, water, energy and agriculture through innovation such as hydroponics production systems or simply through large-scale planting of trees.
In a country where the population is mainly concentrated in urban areas, solutions to promote healthy diets include supporting income generating livelihoods opportunities, developing urban agriculture and gardening as well as promoting nutritional education of schoolchildren and their communities. These are all areas in which FAO and WFP are working actively in Jordan. 
World Food Day is an occasion for FAO and WFP, together with the Government of Jordan, to reiterate their commitment to eliminate hunger, improve food security and nutrition for everyone in Jordan, especially the most vulnerable.  On October 30th and under the patronage of HRH Princess Basma Bint Talal, we will be marking this commitment with an event that brings together a range of people to focus on healthy eating and locally produced food.
The organizations will continue to take strong actions to make healthy diets available to all while promoting food systems and agricultural practices that reinforce biodiversity and contribute to a healthy planet.

Alexis Bonte is FAO Representative ad interim in Jordan.
Sarah Gordon-Gibson is WFP Country Director and Representative in Jordan

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