By Anne-Sophie Brändlin
October 16 marks World Food Day this year, a day celebrated every year by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
World Food Day is a call to make healthy and sustainable diets affordable and accessible for everyone, while nurturing the planet at the same time.
Why Meat and Dairy Are Bad for the Climate<p>Livestock are responsible for almost 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the <a href="http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/197623/icode/" target="_blank">FAO</a>.</p><p>Cattle is the biggest culprit. Raised for both beef and milk, cows represent about 65 percent of the livestock sector's emissions, followed by pork (9 percent), buffalo milk (8 percent), and poultry and eggs (8 percent).</p><p>A byproduct of cow digestion is methane (CH4) and accounts for the majority of livestock emissions. The greenhouse gas is estimated to be at least 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>But livestock production is also responsible for other greenhouse gas emissions, such as nitrous oxide (N20) and carbon dioxide (CO2), mainly through the production of their feed, which often involves large applications of nitrogen-based fertilizers.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTk5OTYzOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTIxNTgyOX0.8F1SHHSaID2I5npqGimiUuE48Gm07i4YFeYXefmCcUY/img.png?width=980" id="d7c92" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a607bc1060e3439bbc0d90f560485117" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Opposite Approach to Combat Hunger?<p>But with over 800 million people still going hungry every day, impact on the climate cannot be the only guide for what people eat, the study points out.</p><p>Animal source foods, specifically milk and eggs, are in fact a valuable source of protein and nutrients like calcium, which are especially important for young children and pregnant women.</p><p><em>Read more: </em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/pakistan-struggling-to-eradicate-malnutrition-in-children/a-49294026" target="_blank">Pakistan struggling to eradicate malnutrition in children</a></p><p>"Some countries, such as Indonesia, India and most of the African countries may actually need to dramatically increase their greenhouse gas emissions and water use, because they have to combat hunger and stunting," Bloem said.</p><p>In these countries, there is still a 40 percent rate of stunting, a side effect of undernutrition that results in lower than average growth in children.</p><p>Stunting also has a major, long-term impact on the cognitive abilities of the children.</p><p>"It's irreversible by the age of two, so stunting has huge implications for the human capital in those countries. That's why it's very critical that we prevent stunting and we need animal source foods for that," Bloem said. "We cannot keep that out of the equation when talking about climate protection." </p><p>Another solution, according to Bloem, would be to fortify certain products, like cereal. This would help reduce the need to get nutrients through animal products. It's a practice already in use in many developed countries, but so far hasn't been applied in many poorer countries.</p>
Fish Could Make All the Difference<p>Diets in which protein came predominantly from low food chain animals – such as small fish and mollusks – were found to have nearly as low of an environmental impact as a vegan diet.</p><p>"Small fish are really critical for poor people, particularly in Africa and Asia, as that's one of the main sources for protein and calcium, because the milk intake is very low in those countries," Bloem said.</p><p>"But 80% of all the fish produced nowadays actually comes from Asia and is imported in Europe and the US. And the feed for some of these bigger fish we import are actually those smaller fish, which means the poorer people have no more access to this vital source of protein and calcium." </p><p>Researchers also determined that a diet that reduced animal food consumption by two-thirds – termed by study authors as going "two-thirds vegan" – generally had a lower climate and water footprint than vegetarian diets that included eggs and diary, but not fish.</p>
Where You Get Your Food From Matters<p>Researchers also found that local production wasn't always the best way to go from a climate perspective.</p><p>The production of one pound (0.45 kilograms) of beef in Paraguay, for instance, contributes nearly 17 times more greenhouse gases than one pound of beef produced in Denmark. Often, this disparity came from deforestation to create grazing land, according to the study.</p><p>"So a food's country of origin can have enormous consequences for the climate," Bloem said.</p><p>"In Europe the soil is much more fertile, for instance, which makes the production there more efficient. So trade could actually be good for the climate if food is produced in places where the climate impact is the lowest," Bloem said, adding that this is the case even when emissions from transportation are factored in.</p><p>The study concludes that middle- and low-income countries need to be guided and supported by developed countries to avoid environmental mistakes the planet is already paying for. </p><p>"It needs to be a close collaboration between developed and developing countries. It's a joint problem. We are all in this together," Bloem said.</p><p>Another way industrialized countries could reduce their impact on the climate is <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/fighting-climate-change-by-tackling-food-waste/a-48384916" target="_blank">reducing food waste</a> — one-third of all food produced worldwide ends up in the bin, with Europeans on average throwing away 95 kilograms (209 lbs) of food per person, per year. In low-income African countries south of the Sahara, it's only 6 kilograms (13 lbs).</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTk5OTY0OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxODE4NDE2Mn0.uQPcuPUg8AcuSSDvgd87IJOJRFtn6bLm_MBs7P4yJJQ/img.png?width=980" id="3a3ed" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d80706920d88c1ee328e8b9ea51cb4d9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Context Is Key<p>But despite the findings, one key conclusion of the report is that there aren't always straight-forward answers, according to Bloem.</p><p>"That's why we conducted analyses in all these different countries so that you can see what the most optimal way is for each individual country – but also the entire world to deal with diets and health criteria, as well as climate and sustainability," he said.</p><p>In the end, the study came up with nine plant-forward diets, ranging from no red meat to pescatarian (a vegetarian diet that includes seafood), lacto-ovo vegetarian (a vegetarian diet that includes dairy and eggs), to vegan, which are to be presented to policymakers in each country.</p><p>At the same time, the study urges people in the Western world to do more. </p><p>Baby boomers in the developed world, for instance, on average spend less than 10% of their income on food, while the same generation in countries like Nigeria, Kenya or Bangladesh spends 50 to 60% of their income on food, according to Bloem.</p><p>"For us in the Western world, we can pay more for our food so that we can pay for the unintended consequences."</p>
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By Dr. Charles Owubah
As a child growing up on a farm in Ghana, I have personally known hunger. The most challenging time was between planting and harvesting – "the hunger season." There were many occasions when we did not know where the next meal would come from.
Today, on World Food Day, I think of the 820 million people around the world who are undernourished.
In a community education session, Action Against Hunger trains parents how to detect malnutrition.
Christophe Da Silva / Action Against Hunger, Cameroon<p>Hearing this, and then hearing that the U.S. spends a tiny fraction of <a href="https://www.interaction.org/blog/aid-delivers-foreign-assistance-in-the-116th-congress/" target="_blank">1 percent of the federal budget</a> fighting global hunger, you might think people don't care. In fact, most don't even know. A <a href="https://www.actionagainsthunger.org/publication/2019/10/global-hunger-awareness-survey" target="_blank">new poll</a> that we just released today at Action Against Hunger found that more than 65 percent of Americans say the number of child deaths attributable to hunger is higher than they realized.</p><p>Across generations, more than 80 percent of those polled think the U.S. government isn't doing enough on global hunger, and most say they would have a more positive view of 2020 presidential candidates who address this issue.</p><p>Most Americans polled also support tax increases on ultra-wealthy individuals (57 percent) and corporations (58 percent) to combat child deaths from hunger, especially Generation Z and millennials, who are even more likely to support increased taxes for the cause.</p><p>It's a hopeful sign that younger generations also are leading the way in calls for greater U.S. involvement on this issue. Gen Z and millennials are more concerned about the link between hunger and the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/climate-crisis" target="_self">climate crisis</a>, for example, which is reducing both the quality and quantity of crops, lowering yields and exacerbating <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/water-crisis" target="_self">water scarcity</a>.</p><p>The world needs a better way to deal with hunger, helping fragile communities become more resilient and better able to deal with the challenges ahead. That includes empowering parents and health workers with simple tools to tell if children are malnourished before it's too late, even in places without electricity or internet access, and with low literacy rates.</p>
An Action Against Hunger-trained community health worker shows a mother how to detect malnutrition using a diagnostic band.
Lys Arango / Action Against Hunger, India<p>One example of a solution is a simple, inexpensive <a href="https://www.actionagainsthunger.org/sites/default/files/publications/Family_MUAC_.pdf" target="_blank">band</a> that acts as a "nutrition thermometer." It wraps around a child's upper arm, stopping at a color that corresponds to their nutrition status: green indicates good health, while yellow or red means the child is malnourished. Once it's known that a child needs help, they can be treated and cured through a highly effective medical intervention.</p><p>While most Americans surveyed prefer to donate food, the cure for malnutrition is not that simple. Severely malnourished children often do not have an appetite for food and cannot handle a normal diet right away. Instead, proven medical treatment involves a regimen of easily-digestible, calorie-rich and ready-to-eat packets containing essential vitamins and minerals, which can bring a child from a medical crisis to full health in 45 days. Infants and complicated cases are treated in hospitals and health centers, but often, recovery for most can take place at home, with regular monitoring by a community health worker.</p><p>Broad investment in nutrition programming is a wise investment. For example, The <a href="https://globalnutritionreport.org/reports/2015-global-nutrition-report/" target="_blank">2015 International Food Policy Institute reports</a> that every $1 spent on reducing hunger can deliver up to $16 in return. Opportunity begins where hunger ends. It did for me.</p><p>The fact that you are reading this means someone invested in you, too. Now, it's our turn to build a future where no lives are wasted. At Action Against Hunger, we may never know the names or stories of the children that we are helping around the world, just as they may not know ours, but we can know that our world will be brighter if we can ensure each one has a chance to grow up healthy and strong.</p><p>On World Food Day, and every day, we must band together to ensure the basic human right of adequate nutrition for everyone, for good.</p><p><em>Dr. Charles Owubah is the CEO of Action Against Hunger, a global humanitarian organization committed to ending world hunger.</em></p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
On World Food Day, observed every year on Oct. 16, we can all do our part to combat global hunger and malnutrition.
The United Nations' second Sustainable Development Goal calls for ending world hunger by 2030 and urges profound interventions from governments, businesses and individuals to help feed the growing number of hungry people in the world.
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By Andrew McMaster
Speaking at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on World Food Day, Pope Francis addressed the need for governments around the world to acknowledge that climate change and migration were leading to increases in world hunger.
Francis received a standing ovation after a stirring speech in which he said all three issues were interrelated and require immediate attention.