What is World Food Day?
World Food Day is commemorated annually on the 16th of October. On this day, over 150 countries take collective action to promote global awareness and action for those who suffer from malnutrition and to ensure healthy diets for all. This day aims at tackling global hunger and striving to eradicate hunger across the world.
The theme for World Food Day 2021 was revealed to be;
“Our Actions are our future. Safe food now for a healthy tomorrow. Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and better life”
From this year’s theme, we can comprehend that there is a sharp focus on how “healthy” eating habits are vital in order to have a better future devoid of disease.
Why do we eat? What are nutrients?
Before diving into details about diets, it is important to understand why we need to eat. Although the need for food is fairly obvious, it’s important that it be re-iterated. To put it in simple terms, food is what fuels you and delivers the calories and nutrients your body needs to function. If your diet is deficient in calories or one or more nutrients, your health may suffer as a consequence. There is a recommended daily calorie intake that one should follow to maintain a healthy life which differs from person-to-person according to their age, sex, height, weight and level of physical activity. Generally, the recommended daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 for men (this may vary considerably according to the aforementioned factors).
If your calorie intake exceeds this value, your body will store the extra calories and you will experience weight gain. People with obesity have a significantly increased risk of illnesses like type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, and heart, liver, and kidney disease. Additionally, the quality of your diet affects your disease risk, longevity and mental health.
Healthy eating doesn’t involve any particular diet. Rather, it means prioritizing your health by fueling your body with nutrient-rich foods. Not many people understand the difference between calories and nutrients. Even though calories are important, your primary concern should be nutrients.
All foods contain calories, but not all foods are nutrient-dense. “Nutrient density” refers to the amount of nutrients in a food in relation to the calories it provides. For example, a candy bar or a box of mac and cheese may be incredibly high in calories but lack vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber.
Although some nutrient-dense foods, such as numerous fruits and veggies, are low in calories, many — like nuts, full fat yogurt, egg yolks, avocado, and fatty fish — are high in calories. Just because a food is high in calories doesn’t mean that it’s bad for you. On the same token, just because a food is low in calories doesn’t make it a healthy choice. As a general rule, try to mostly eat foods that are high in nutrients like protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. These foods include veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, fatty fish, and eggs.
What are the ways to improve our diet?
One of the best ways to improve your diet is to cut back on ultra-processed. Highly processed products like soda, mass-produced baked goods, candy, sugary cereals, and certain boxed snack food contain little if any whole food ingredients.
These items tend to pack ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and artificial sweeteners. Research links diets high in ultra-processed foods to a greater risk of depression, heart disease, obesity, and many other complications. Thus, it’s best to prioritize nutrient-dense foods, especially vegetables and fruits. However, you don’t have to completely avoid these foods all the time. Foods like ice creamand candy can be a part of a healthy, well-rounded diet, but they shouldn’t be a significant part of your calorie intake.
Here are some realistic tips for you to get started with healthy eating:
These tips can help you move toward a healthier diet. You can also work with a registered dietitian, especially if you’re not sure how to start improving your diet. A dietitian can help you develop a sustainable, nutritious eating plan that works for your needs and schedule.
Malnutrition in Sri lanka
Malnutrition is a major issue in Sri Lanka especially in children. Sri Lanka has made no progress towards achieving the target for wasting, with 15.1% of children under 5 years of age affected, which is higher than the average for the Asia region (9.1%) and among the highest in the world. Sri Lanka has shown limited progress towards achieving the diet-related non-communicable disease (NCD) targets.
The country has shown no progress towards achieving the target for obesity, with an estimated 7.3% of adult (aged 18 years and over) women and 2.9% of adult men living with obesity. Sri Lanka’s obesity prevalence is lower than the regional average of 8.7% for women and 6.0% for men. At the same time, diabetes is estimated to affect 7.7% of adult women and 7.0% of adult men. 45 percent of women of reproductive age group are overweight or obese; 33 percent of pregnant and lactating women are anemic.
The statistics mentioned above are those before the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and preschools have been closed for nearly three months and until further notice. To make matters worse, breadwinners in many poor households havealready losttheir jobs or sources of income, due the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis. As such, missing out on school meals may lead to nutritional deficits of thousands of poor children in Sri Lanka.
World Food Day has been celebrated with the Government of Sri Lanka since the establishment in Sri Lanka of WFP in 1968 and FAO in 1979. The Sri Lankan government, with the help of various other national/international organizations, has implemented a diverse number of programs to combat malnutrition and starvation.
A major program being a collaboration with the WFP (World Food Programme);
The SUN Civil Society Alliance contributed mainly to preserve the nutrition status in children through their “Save the Children” program;
Overall, there is not much information to be found on the internet regarding the current situation of the health of the Sri Lankan population. But we can only imagine the havoc that has resulted from the Covid-19 outbreak and its impact on the Sri Lankan economy.
How can we contribute to help global/national hunger?
Now that we know the basics of nutrition, the effects of poor-nutrition and the measures taken to improve the nutrition statistics of the Sri Lankan populace, we should discuss how each one of us can contribute to help end global hunger at a national level as well as an international level;
WGSA rescues and delivers surplus food to families and orphanages in need of perishable and nonperishable food.
Robin Hood Army Sri Lanka The Robin Hood Army is a volunteer based organization that works to get surplus food from restaurants to the less fortunate sections of society.
Samsung Global Goals app. This app, created in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme, has contributed to the 17 global goals including global hunger. When a user engages with in-app advertising, it automatically donates to UNDP 100% of the revenue that the advertising generates. It is completely free to download via the Google playstore.
Oct 15, 2021