Traditional foods, nutrition education key to fighting hunger and malnutrition

Small-scale farming and local production have big role to play

27 September 2012, New York - Promotion of traditional foods and better food and nutrition education can improve diets and help mitigate the impact of high international food prices, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today at a high-level meeting on nutrition held on the margins of the UN General Assembly.

The event, convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, brought together political, business, scientific and civil society leaders in New York to review progress made throughout the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement over the past year and to discuss commitments to greater investments in nutrition.

"Recovering traditional foods such as cassava, quinoa, beans and other non-commodities is a valid strategy to face high and volatile international food prices," the Director-General said. "This provides a very important opportunity to promote small-scale farming and local production."

Currently just three major staple crops - corn, wheat and rice - provide 60 percent of the dietary energy from plant origin at global level, and with rising incomes in developing countries, huge numbers of people are abandoning traditional plant-based foods in favour of diets rich in meat, dairy products, fats and sugar.

"Promoting food and nutrition education is a challenge in developing and developed nations," Graziano da Silva said. "While around 900 million people are undernourished worldwide, 2 billion more suffer from some kind of malnutrition."

The Director-General reiterated FAO's commitment to working with its UN partners in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.

"Each one of our agencies brings something different to this issue. And when we work together the results are even more than the sum of their parts."

The International Conference on Nutrition 21 years later (ICN+21) that FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) will organize in November 2013 will provide the opportunity to mobilize the political will and resources necessary for improving nutrition and promoting a global multi-sector nutrition framework, Graziano da Silva said.

Photo: ©FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri
Traditional foods can improve diets and help mitigate high international food prices.