GENEVA, Switzerland – The Pre-Summit of the UN Food Systems is an opportunity to set the agenda for how we will boldly and collectively strengthen food systems, promote healthy diets, and improve nutrition, especially for children and young people.
Even before the pandemic, children were bearing the brunt of broken food systems and poor diets, leading to an alarming nutrition and health crisis worldwide, and a triple burden of malnutrition: undernutrition, in the form of stunting and wasting, widespread micronutrient deficiencies, and a growing prevalence of overweight and obesity.
Globally, 1 in 3 children is not growing well due to malnutrition – a leading cause of child mortality worldwide – while 2 in 3 don’t have access to the minimum diverse diets they need to grow, develop and learn. We continue to see stubbornly high rates of wasting, and a worrying increase in overweight and obesity among young children.
In recent decades, changes in our global food systems – including the practices used to grow, distribute, market, consume, and dispose of our food – mean that the most nutritious and safe foods are too costly or inaccessible to millions of families. Many increasingly turn to processed foods that are affordable, widely available, and aggressively marketed, but often high in unhealthy sugar, fats and salt.
A toxic combination of rising poverty, inequality, conflict, climate change, and COVID-19 is further threatening food systems and children’s nutritional well-being, especially those from the poorest and most vulnerable communities and households.
A transformation of the food system that listens to the voices of children and young people, and unlocks nutritious, safe, affordable and sustainable diets for every child, everywhere, must be at the heart of strategies, policies and investments.
UNICEF and WHO call on governments and decision-makers to scale up effective approaches that include:
Only then will we improve the quality, safety and affordability of the foods that children and young people have access to; the environments in which they grow, learn, play and eat, and the sustainability of the planet they live in.
By joining forces with governments, civil society, families, development and humanitarian partners, private sector stakeholders, and children and young people themselves, we can uphold our promise to deliver good nutrition and a healthier planet for every child and every adult, everywhere.