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World Food Day - October 16


World Food Day is celebrated annually on 16 October to promote global awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger, and to highlight the need to ensure healthy diets for all.

Collective action across 150 countries is what makes World Food Day one of the most celebrated days of the United Nations calendar. Hundreds of events and outreach activities bring together governments, businesses, NGOs, the media, and the general public. They promote worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure healthy diets for all.

#WorldFoodDay 2021 will be marked a second time while countries around the world deal with the widespread effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic. It's a time to look into the future we need to build together.

According to World Hunger Statistics, 785 million people across the globe do not have enough food to sustain a healthy lifestyle. The number equals about one in nine people in the world. Surprisingly, the majority of hungry people live in developing countries. Poor nutrition causes 45% of deaths in children under the age of 5. That means just over 3 million children a year die because they don’t have access to enough nutritious food.

World hunger is a complex issue. Some believe the problem is solvable. World hunger solutions include:

  • Help people provide food for themselves in a sustainable way
  • Give people in developing countries access to credit so they can create their own farms
  • Encourage individuals and businesses to donate to hunger relief organizations
  • Provide access to education, which is the best defense against poverty and hunger
  • Allow for increased government intervention

Some experts believe the answer to world hunger is much more straightforward. They believe the key to ending world hunger is to stop wasting food. The most wasted foods include vegetables, cereals, and starchy roots. These foods are wasted during agricultural production and in postharvest storage. Food waste increases the need to produce more food. When not enough food gets produced, people go hungry.


History of World Food Day

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) established World Food Day at their 20th General Conference in 1979. The date of October 16th commemorates the anniversary of FAO founding.

Since 1981 the FAO has selected a specific theme for World Food Day. Recent themes have included:

2019: Our Actions Are Our Future: Healthy Diets for a #ZEROHUNGER World

2016: Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must, too.

2015: Social protection against agriculture: breaking the cycle of rural poverty.

2014: Family Farming: Feeding the world, caring for the earth.


By the Numbers

  • More than 3 billion people —almost 40% of the world’s population —cannot afford a healthy diet.
  • Almost 2 billion people are overweight or obese due to a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle.
  • The world’s agri-food systems currently employ 1 billion people, more than any other sector.
  • Smallholder farmers produce more than 33% of the world’s food, despite challenges including poverty and lack of access to finance, training, and technology.
  • Globally, 20% more women than men aged 25-34 live in extreme poverty and more than 18% of indigenous women live on less than USD 1.90 a day.
  • 14% of the world’s food is lost due to inadequate harvesting, handling, storage, and transit, and 17% is wasted at the consumer level.
  • 55% of the world’s population resides in cities and this will rise to 68% by 2050.
  • 10% of people are affected by unsafe food supplies contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemical substances.

Climate change affects the rural poor, agricultural yields and productivity, and can contribute to changing nutrient composition of major staple crops, including decreases in proteins, and some essential minerals and vitamins.

The Future of Food is in our Hands

An agri-food system is a complex term that may seem far from your reality, but do you know our lives depend on them? Every time you eat, you participate in the system. The food we choose and the way we produce, prepare, cook and store it makes us an integral and active part of the way in which an agri-food system works. 

A sustainable agri-food system is one in which a variety of sufficient, nutritious, and safe foods is available at an affordable price to everyone, and nobody is hungry or suffers from any form of malnutrition. The shelves are stocked at the local market or food store, but less food is wasted and the food supply chain is more resilient to shocks such as extreme weather, price spikes or pandemics, all while limiting, rather than worsening, environmental degradation or climate change. In fact, sustainable agri-food systems deliver food security and nutrition for all, without compromising the economic, social, and environmental bases, for generations to come. They lead to better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life for all. 

Better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life.


Why care?

Agri-food systems employ 1 billion people worldwide, more than any other economic sector. Moreover, the way we produce, consume, and, sadly, waste food exacts a heavy toll on our planet, putting unnecessary pressure on natural resources, the environment, and the climate. Food production too often degrades or destroys natural habitats and contributes to species extinction. Such inefficiency is costing us trillions of dollars, but, most importantly, today’s agri-food systems are exposing profound inequalities and injustices in our global society. Three billion people cannot afford healthy diets, while overweight and obesity continue to increase worldwide.    

The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined that an urgent change of route is needed. It has made it even harder for farmers - already grappling with climate variability and extremes - to sell their harvests, while rising poverty is pushing an increased number of city residents to use food banks, and millions of people require emergency food aid. We need sustainable agri-food systems that are capable of nourishing 10 billion people by 2050. 


What now?

Solutions exist. Governments need to both repurpose old policies and adopt new ones that foster the sustainable production of affordable nutritious foods and promote farmer participation. Policies should promote equality and learning, drive innovation, boost rural incomes, offer safety nets to smallholders, and build climate resilience. They also need to consider the multiple linkages between areas affecting food systems including education, health, energy, social protection, finance, and more, and make solutions fit together. And they need to be backed by a major increase in responsible investment and strong support to reduce negative environmental and social impacts across sectors, particularly the private sector, civil society, researchers, and academia.  

The UN Secretary-General is convening the very first Food Systems Summit in September 2021 to forge consensus on bold new actions to transform the way the world produces and consumes food, with an aim to get back on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  

Observing World Food Day

Over 150 countries observe World Food Day. In the United States, 450 national organizations sponsor the day. As part of their sponsorship, some of these organizations host World Food Day Sunday Dinners. Des Moines, Iowa also hosts an annual symposium in honor of the day. Across Europe, ministries, universities, and research agencies organize conferences, exhibitions, and media broadcasts. In the past, the Pope has sent a special message for food producers and consumers.

World Food Day events in Africa, Asia, and Latin American include agricultural fairs, debates, folk dances, films, special ceremonies in the schools, and food package deliveries.

You can’t solve the world hunger problem. You can help do your part, though. On World Food Day, donate to your local food pantry. Donate to a world hunger-relief organization. Pay off the school lunch debt in your community. If you know of a family in need, anonymously send them a gift card to your local grocery store. Spread awareness by sharing #WorldFoodDay on social media.




Filed Under: Events, WHO, COVID-19, awareness