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On 16 October millions of people around the world will gather at marathons, exhibitions, concerts and marches to observe World Food Day. Initiated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) it is one of the most celebrated days of the UN calendar.
More than just a casual series of festivities, World Food Day is organised to bring awareness to how our changing planet affects food production and distribution. Related events explore several topics such as examining how agriculture needs to adapt due to climate change to migration affects food security. The goal of these sessions is to set goals that will eventually lead to building a Zero Hunger Generation.
In recent decades, we have dramatically changed our diets and eating habits as a result of globalisation, urbanisation and income growth.
We have moved from seasonal, mainly plant-based and fibre-rich dishes to diets that are high in refined starches, sugar, fats, salt, processed foods, meat and other animal-source products. Less time is spent preparing meals at home, and consumers, especially in urban areas, increasingly rely on supermarkets, fast food outlets, street food vendors and take-away restaurants.
A combination of unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles has sent obesity rates soaring, not only in developed countries, but also low-income countries, where hunger and obesity often coexist. Now over 670 million adults and 120 million girls and boys (5-19 years) are obese, and over 40 million children under 5 are overweight, while over 820 million people suffer from hunger.
An unhealthy diet is the leading risk factor for deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and certain cancers. Linked with one fifth of deaths worldwide, unhealthy eating habits are also taking a toll on national health budgets costing up to USD 2 trillion per year.
Obesity and other forms of malnutrition affect nearly one in three people. Projections indicate that the number will be one in two by 2025. The good news is that affordable solutions exist to reduce all forms of malnutrition, but they require greater global commitment and action.