The number of people who go to bed hungry was rising steadily prior to the COVID-19 pandemic due to stresses related to climate, inequality and conflict, and now stands at 690 million. The pandemic has supercharged these trends. The latest UN estimates are sobering, with an additional 130 million projected to be suffering from hunger, even before the devastating pandemic numbers we are currently seeing from India and Brazil.
As a global community we urgently need to reimagine how our food systems work to ensure both human and planetary health. To this end, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the Alliance of Bioversity-CIAT, EAT, CSIRO’s Food Systems and Global Change group, and the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability are excited to announce the launch of the Innovative Food System Solution (IFSS) portal on NutritionConnect.org on May 19, 2021.
The triple impact of COVID-19-related disruptions in food, health, and social protection systems have already reversed recent progress made with severe consequences on human capital. If we do not act to protect infants during the critical first 1000 days from conception to 24 months of age, their growth and development will be permanently affected by consequent nutritional deficiencies.
Today, a global youth-led food movement was launched, promising to ignite a campaign action to combat hunger, improve health and heal the planet. The #Act4Food and #Act4Change campaign takes the form of a simple pledge and list of actions.
On April 27, The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, GAIN, launched the Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network (SBN) in Ethiopia. Co-convened by the World Food Program, SBN Ethiopia engaged all relevant small and medium-sized businesses involved in the country’s food sector to scale up and invest in the nutrition agenda.
Healthy Diets for Tea Communities is a coalition led by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP), with funding from with eight leading tea companies to address poor nutrition in tea supply chains in Assam (India), Kenya, and Malawi.
Dubbed a "Peoples Summit", it is open to unprecedented engagement in every country, from every sector, and every constituency. It is also dubbed a "Solutions Summit" with a focus on action. I lead one of the five thematic areas or "Action Tracks" (ATs) on "Ensuring access to safe and nutritious foods for all". There are four other ATs, a Science Group, a Champions Group, 4 cross-cutting Levers and the over 100 Summit Dialogues to date.
Our food systems profoundly impact our ability to achieve universal goals of human and planetary wellbeing, with food directly or indirectly linked to several of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals. With the UN Food Systems Summit scheduled to convene a wide group of stakeholders from all walks of life in September 2021, food systems are rising up the agenda.
Here comes the third wave. Like the first COVID-19 wave and the second wave, we cannot know in advance its peak, scale, or duration. I often think that things could have been different if we could have predicted the pandemic’s impact, but we were found to be ill-prepared. If we had relevant information and better disaster preparedness, we might all be living differently by now, I guess.
In the nine countries where GAIN works, lockdowns and border closures to mitigate the spread of the virus and the concurrent economic impact could greatly increase hunger. In some places, restrictions in movements and lay-offs would mean reduced accessibility to fresh produce and nutrient-rich animal-sourced foods, resulting in millions of people having to resort to less nutritious foods.