FOOD as a right. The voices of dieticians and nutritionists
On 7th October, CEMAS held the event “Cultivate, Nourish, Preserve. The importance of the environment in our diet“, a meeting organised jointly with the Official Association of Dieticians and Nutritionists of the Valencian Community (CODiNuCoVa) on the theme proposed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for World Food Day 2020.
It was a virtual meeting with a high level of participation and was structured in three panels: CULTIVATE, NOURISH and PRESERVE. In each of them, we had the opportunity to analyse, together with experts in nutrition, food, sustainability and the environment, the current situation in the Valencian Community in order to move towards a fairer, healthier and more sustainable food system.
CULTIVATE: caring for those who care for the land
At the beginning of this panel, great focus was placed on the work of veterinary professionals as a key element in nutrition and as guarantors of public health, since their work covers everything from the production to the consumption of the food that reaches consumers.
The following block was dedicated to the consuming public, showing the importance of improving food education in general. The participating experts confirmed the need for consumers to be informed about the origin of the food they eat and to be aware of the advantages of short channels. It is only in this way that they will choose safe and secure food, linked to a specific origin, produced in a sustainable way and (most importantly) able to produce enjoyment.
Finally, there was a strong emphasis on the need to protect our small producers, who should have a fair income. He highlighted the “Counting Strip” of València as an example of a short channel and of a historical activity that we must preserve. This traditional practice consists of allocating a space in the city markets to small farmers from the Valencian countryside. In this way, the community can acquire fresh and recently harvested products directly from the farmer, without intermediaries. An institution that has survived since the 12th century and has managed to update itself and remain in force over time.
NOURISH, caring for people, the land and the planet
The second panel highlighted the role of dietician-nutritionists, while also calling for their inclusion in the national health system, from which they are now absent. Attendees described this situation as unacceptable, especially when it has been proven that illnesses resulting from poor nutrition are already a pandemic. On this issue, the panel concluded that part of the change needed in our food system is to start “understanding food as a right and not as a business”.
Another valuable conclusion drawn from this panel was the role of legislation in managing change, as it should help regulate misleading advertising of ultra-processed products, bring healthy eating closer to children in school canteens, and support the consumption of fresh food in the community; this is the way to preserve both biodiversity and people’s health. The speakers pointed out that, for a healthy diet to be considered as such, it must be good for the people, the land and the planet; it must be mainly plant-based, seasonal, accessible through a short marketing channel, agro-ecological and affordable.
PRESERVE, under the “four helix” structure
The third and final part of our event revealed disturbing data on food waste and its environmental impact. For example, it was noted that in Spain 250 kg of food is thrown away every second. The speakers argued that, in order to improve these figures, it is necessary to optimise the entire food chain. This means reviewing every link in the chain, including the consumer who throws away food that has gone bad in their fridge or the shop that throws away food that could not be sold.
On the other hand, an issue that concerns all specialists was also brought to the table: the loss of gastronomic cultural heritage in the face of standardisation of food, which has led us to see more foreign options than local and quality ones on restaurant menus. Change is imminent: we must revitalise local gastronomy by adapting it to the needs of the 21st century and offering local, sustainable, healthy and, of course, tasty food.
Finally, all the experts at the event agreed that the agri-food system is a motor for change and a solution agent and that, in order to transform it, it is necessary to work under the “four-helix” structure, involving the administrations, the academic community, the private sector and civil society.