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Europe and Central Asia Regional Overview of Food Insecurity 2016

The food insecurity transition

While the nature of food insecurity has changed substantially over the past 23 years, the concept of food security is still pertinent in the Europe and Central Asia region. Today, reducing food insecurity in the region requires a shift in emphasis from fighting undernourishment to addressing the need for a healthier diet – reducing micronutrient deficiencies and health risks from overweight and obesity. The report discusses a range of policies designed to address the principal malnutrition issues by groups of countries, classified by their predominant food insecurity and malnutrition concerns.

Key messages

  • The main source of poverty reduction in the region has been pro-poor economic growth. Redistribution policies have played little role in poverty reduction in the Europe and Central Asia region.
  • The experience of the past 23 years suggests that sustained economic growth is key to further poverty reduction and ensuring food security in the region.
  • For the population of most countries in the region, the burden of overweight and obesity in terms of disability-adjusted labour years now far exceeds that from undernutrition.
  • Beyond economic growth, policies aimed specifically at malnutrition that have worked in this region include:
    • Food fortification for iron, vitamin A, zinc, iodine and other deficiencies
    • Food reformulation to reduce salt, saturated fats and sugar
    • Fiscal measures, such as taxes on soft drinks, sugary foods or food items containing saturated fats
    • Public health and nutrition information campaigns to increase public awareness
    • Nutrition labelling to increase consumer awareness
    • Means tested food assistance policies for women with young children.