Junior World Food Day: a diverse group of Food Heroes inspire young people to value water

Youth events at FAO help spread the message: Water is Life, Water is Food. Leave No One Behind

FAO/Pier Paolo Cito

Food Heroes, influencers and innovators joined young people to spread the message that we must value water

©FAO/Pier Paolo Cito


Rome - Some of them create delicious foods or vibrant gardens, some raise people’s awareness of the crucial issues we face through their advocacy or through sport or music. Special guests, including Food Heroes, influencers and innovators gathered at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) today for Junior World Food Day with one purpose: to help inspire and galvanize action by young people around this year’s theme - Water is Food, Water is Life - Leave No One Behind.   

“Together, we have the power to create a world where everyone everywhere has enough food and safe water, a world with enough water for economic growth, rural development and prosperity,” even with population growth, said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, as he opened the event.

Investing positive energy

Qu summed up the central theme as a conversation about water as the foundation of life and food. It was, he said, aimed at looking at the challenges and solutions and calling on young people to invest their positive energy in contributing to a more water- and food- secure future.

International chefs taking part in the event gave their personal insights into why water is so crucial.  Fatmata Binta from Ghana recalled living in a village, where local people had to walk more than a mile for water. “That’s why it’s so important not to waste water because there are people struggling to get the basic necessities.” Italian chef Max Mariola urged young people to “remember how much water went into the grain to make the bread.” Anahita Dhondy from India explained that she was “passionate about millets because they use less water.”

Also sharing their stories were Food Heroes including Bela Gil and Rodrigo Pacheco – FAO's National Goodwill Ambassador for Ecuador; Gardening expert and FAO’s National Goodwill Ambassador for Ireland, Diarmuid Gavin; Youth activist Olivia Mandle from Spain; Athlete and UNDP Regional Goodwill Ambassador for climate action, Michael Haddad from Lebanon; Matteo Ward, advocate of sustainable fashion from Italy.

They were joined by Garry McCarthy and Seán Downey from Kabin Studio, along with Pino Pecorelli and Domenico Coduto from the multicultural Piccola Orchestra di Tor Pignattara, who produced the new youth music video ‘Water is life, water is food’.

At the core of the day’s activities was the need to foster understanding that what we eat and how that food is produced impacts water. It is the driving force for people, economies and nature and the foundation of our food.

The rationale for FAO’s central role is that agriculture accounts for more than 70 percent of global freshwater withdrawals.

Finite resource crucial

This finite resource is crucial for the livelihoods of huge numbers of us on the planet. Around 600 million people depend, at least partially, on aquatic food systems to make a living as small-scale fishers, fish farmers and fish workers. They suffer the effects of pollution, ecosystem degradation, unsustainable practices and the climate crisis.   

Then there are those who have to go without water. About 2.4 billion of us live in countries that don’t have enough of it, with lack of access to water a frequent cause of conflict.

But big problems can be solved through small actions, the FAO Director-General said. He spoke of a collective mission to contribute to a more sustainable management of water, and a food-secure future.

He urged young people to make a difference by choosing environmentally friendly foods wasting less water and less food and finding safe ways to reuse food waste while preventing water pollution.

Water action game

Alongside the event there were games and exhibits to bring home the messages, including a water action game. Participants roll the dice and move their counter. Sustainable actions allow them to move forward, while negative unsustainable actions hold them back.

On a large screen, meanwhile, those present or following via webcast could watch the new multilingual youth music video 'Water is life, water is food'. Students from around the world got together again this year to sing, outlining the actions each of us can take for water.

Another way to learn more about important topics impacting our food and agriculture is the World Food Day children's activity books. This year's book explores solutions to global challenges, such as a growing population, global warming and an increase in the production of goods and services that threaten our water supply.

Each year, a Poster Contest calls on youth to draw a poster based on the Day's theme. This year FAO is asking youth to design a poster of your water action for food.

Young people can also join the ranks of the food heroes and participate in the Water Action Photo Wall by taking a photo and committing to an action to help create a food- and water-secure world.

Qu told his audience: “You are the future, you need to continue our legacy to ensure a better world – for people, planet and prosperity.”


FAO News and Media (+39) 06 570 53625 [email protected]

Francis Markus FAO News and Media (Rome) [email protected]