Nurturing not feeding is the key to ending hunger
For many years we have talked a lot about the need to feed the world while ignoring nutrition.
In this time, we have witnessed the emergence and expansion of new forms of malnutrition, such as obesity and diseases related to our diets.
This forces us to revise the meaning we give to the words food and eat.
Food and feeding are not simple raw materials or objects of commerce.
Food is also taste, culture, history, and identity. Similarly, eating is not just about eating calories or nutrients.
Eating involves meeting others, working together, enjoying, discovering new foods and ingredients or learning about what suits us. In summary, to eat is to live.
In fact, our health and well-being depend to a large extent on what we eat. Therefore, as we continue our busy lives, none of us should forget or underestimate their importance.
That, of course, is not limited to our individual decisions but also refers especially to governments and their public policies, as well as to the performance of a private sector whose influence continues to grow.
Absorbed by the endless schedules and stress of modern urban life, and predisposed by the changes that have taken place in global food systems, our diets have changed quite radically.
In the last half century we have gone from dishes rich in fiber and mainly composed of vegetables and fruits to a very caloric diet dominated by ultra-processed products with high values in refined starches, sugars, fats or salts.
Not only have we changed the contents of our plates, but also the very idea of what food and feeding mean to us as human beings.
We increasingly rely on ready-to-go preparations, ready to eat or frozen, which are usually cheaper and more accessible.
Sometimes, the only activity we do in the kitchen is to set the microwave timer, and we are more than used to having lunch standing, on the way somewhere, or in front of the computer.
Just as our food systems work, from agricultural production to processing or distribution, the space left for fresh and locally produced food is very limited.
And this is something that also affects the microbiome – the bacterial community that lives in our bodies – that plays an important role in the metabolism of the body and influences our body weight.
We have also moved away from traditional crops and foods to make way for more productive and commercial varieties, thus damaging biodiversity, which is also crucial to guarantee global food security and sustain healthy and nutritious diets.
In addition, we are losing valuable knowledge about how to cook and preserve food and the ability to understand its nutritional value.
Undoubtedly, all these changes are related to the rise of obesity and other noncommunicable diseases linked to our diet, such as diabetes, cardiovascular accidents or some types of cancer, a phenomenon that is occurring in both developed and developing countries.
The prevalence of obesity in the world has almost tripled since 1975, and more than 672 million adults already suffer from it. If we do not act urgently, soon there will be more obese than hungry in the world. In 2017, there were 821 million people who did not eat enough.
While many urbanites are moving away from their own culinary traditions and gastronomic knowledge, more and more chefs from all over the world are striving to remind us of the value of maintaining rich, seasonal and varied diets, connected with the territory and produced by small-scale farmers.
As an expression of human culture, gastronomy brings food its true social, economic and health dimension.
People must understand and work together to recover the understanding of the value of food and encourage authorities all over the world to put in place public policies that ensure that eating a healthy diet and celebrating food and everything that surrounds it is not a privilege within reach of a few, but a right of all.