Dorota Sienkiewicz / Sep 2014
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The global pandemic of malnutrition where approximately 1 billion people suffer from chronic hunger while 1.4 billion people are overweight or obese presents new challenges for food and nutrition security, sufficiency and access. In order to stop the pandemic academia, public interest civil society, society at large and in some cases even policy-makers themselves are coming together to demand a more integrated approach to agriculture and food systems that is more sensitive to people’s health and nutrition sensitive.
At the current time a vision for an integrated food system is largely missing from the current debates in Europe that are taking place around nutrition and farming. It is worrying, for example that the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) reform outcomes at the EU- and national-level are disappointingly misaligned with the reality of soaring food poverty and food waste, a high prevalence of diet-related diseases and health inequalities. This is particularly worrying for the health of the most vulnerable groups such as low-income families, children, elderly, migrants or the Roma. For these people the issues of access, availability and acceptability of healthy food and nutritional efficiency have on the one hand become more apparent but on the other remain unaddressed by the food system and the policies that govern it. While some initiatives have been taken on a sporadic basis such as on organic and fair trade food and food waste, a framework for a concerted and coherent action with clear leadership is sorely lacking.
Given the current challenges, it is of utmost importance that all the components of our food system deliver not just food but good, nutritious food to everyone. Europe needs a food policy that delivers against a broader set of objectives beyond generating profits for a few. We need ambitious policy makers who create and support conditions which favour public interest and equitable access to healthy foods rather than only the economic advantage of a few – multinational agriculture corporations, single commodity producers (red meat, sugar, milk) and manufacturers of produce high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS).
Healthy people depend on healthy food systems where healthy foods (eg. Fish, fresh fruit and vegetables and wholegrains) are accessible, affordable and available, and the production, consumption and marketing of unhealthy food are discouraged by a smart mix of intersectoral public policies. This must be realised throughout the whole food supply chain from primary producers, to processors, manufacturers, retailers, advertisers and consumers.