By September 2018, It would be 3 years since the United Nations member states committed to adopting the agenda for sustainable development. The target year for achieving the set goals is 2030 which is about 12 years from now. The second sustainable development goal is to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture“. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 795 million people were hungry worldwide as of 2014-6 of which 233 million were from sub-Saharan Africa. This is a very huge number.
Ending hunger is way beyond giving people easy access food, its about giving access to highly nutritious food. It is important to note here that hunger and malnutrition do not mean the same thing but go frequently together in most cases. There is a huge likelihood for someone exposed to a long duration of hunger to become malnourished but not all malnourished individuals are hungry. Hunger however is what gets the most attention than achieving optimum nutrition. A lot of charities focus on getting people those in need food to just “fill up” their stomachs and take the feeling of hunger away. According to the University of Ibadan, College of Medicine, individuals above age 60 were mostly affected by malnutrition followed by individuals between the ages 0-13 and 19-60 years. A lot of people eat and are not well nourished.
The importance of good nutrition
A hungry person cannot be obese or come down with lifestyle diseases like cancer but a well fed and malnourished person has the likelihood to come down with these lifestyle related health issues.A well nourished individual would have less visits to the hospital, would most likely not be overweight or underweight. Meals rich in the right nutrients help to boost the immune system, prevent illnesses and promote optimum development. It helps with promoting good mental and physical health.
We are all vulnerable to poor nutrition
Contrary to popular opinion, poor nutrition is not particular to low-income communities as can be seen in America which is predicted to have its obesity rate reaching nearly 50% by 2030 according to OECD. There are arguments that low income communities are more prone due to their inability to purchase fresh groceries and would instead go for cheap and “filling” foods with little nutritional value. I strongly believe that the high income communities might have the purchasing power to buy fresh food but by choice and a faulty mindset towards healthy food would rather go for fast foods served in restaurants which actually come in cheaper than fresh fruits and vegetables.
What can be done?
Healthcare facilities should take the bull by its horn and start educating people about the importance of eating healthy meals and maintaining their health. Some people might argue that “if everyone is healthy, who goes to the hospital then?” People give birth to babies, accidents happen so they would not run out of business but can tap into the healthy lifestyle business of educating people about the benefits of daily healthy lifestyle choices.
Policy makers should also look into food policies that would make healthy food cheaper than unhealthy so it is easily accessible to everyone. The farm-to-table value chain should attract huge investments and workable policies in order to cut wastes associated with harvesting, storage and transportation before it gets to the end user.
Certified dietitians and holistic nutritionists should have roles in hospitals because people tend to believe in information they get from healthcare providers. A cancer patient I recently spoke with has not taken her nutrition seriously because she has been told by the radiotherapist in charge of her treatment all the cells will be killed and nutrition had little role to play. This was after I should her research results of people with similar cases who saw improvements when they paid more attention to their health.
Healthy children grow up to be healthy adults. Catch them young. Reduce the junk in their lunch bags. Its not going to be easy but its going to be worth it. Childhood obesity and cancer have been increasing in recent years and our food choices have roles to play in curbing or promoting these illnesses.
Lastly, we need to change how we view and perceive food. I think this is very important because in my various attempts in trying to lose weight and live healthy, I have fallen off the wagon a lot of times because I am not used to seeing a salad or a smoothie as a meal. I see it as a starter or side dish and I keep wondering why I do not lose weight despite eating healthy food. Fruits and vegetables constitute meals and not just supplements to meals. The best foods do not usually come in fancy packages.