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How will you innovate to feed the world? – Investing in Nutrition Part I

Coincidentally, I spent World Children’s Day (November 20th) reading the Global Nutrition Report. The report discusses the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 2.2 which aims to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030. As a result of this initiative, SDGs were adopted by 193 countries in 2015.

Unfortunately, nutrition statistics state that 815 million people are hungry this year, up from 777 million two years ago. What’s new is our deeper understanding of (mal)nutrition issues: nutrition action is not a separate box to be left only to nutritionists (remember the saying that ‘war is too important to be left to generals’). Action on nutrition is needed to achieve goals across the 17 SDGs and, in turn, action on all the SDGs is needed to stop malnutrition.

Malnutrition has adverse effects – take the term ‘stunting’, a standard measure of malnutrition. Stunting does not just mean ‘short size’. Stunting means that brain development is disrupted, too. It’s brain development, folks, that builds futures and economies and a better life for everyone. Healthy diets mean improved performance at school. Children not affected by stunting early in their life have better results in cognitive assessments and activity level.

Consider this:

  • With global warming, more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will result in decreased protein, iron, zinc and other micronutrients in our major crops.
  • 30% of food is currently wasted. Contaminated food and water cause weight loss and death for many young children.
  • Dirty water and poor sanitation are responsible for 50% of malnutrition. Urban populations are predicted to reach 66% of world population by 2050, which means a time bomb is ticking.
  • Only 5% of children aged 0–59 months who need zinc treatment are receiving it. Zinc is essential for the human body, and especially for the immune system, and although zinc supplements cost next to nothing, millions of children are still zinc-deficient.

Let’s remove the word ‘cost’ from nutrition interventions and replace it with ‘investment’. Investing in nutrition – through family education, school lunch programs, cooking classes in primary and secondary school, ‘eat whole foods’ campaigns – means investing in human development and a better future for our societies.

To learn about additional ways to make a difference, check out Part II of this blog.