Achieving Zero Hunger is not only about addressing hunger, but also nourishing people, while nurturing the planet. This year, World Food Day calls for action across sectors to make healthy and sustainable diets affordable and accessible to everyone. At the same time, it calls on everyone to start thinking about what we eat.

In recent decades, we have dramatically changed our diets and eating habits as a result of globalization, urbanization and income growth. We have moved from seasonal, mainly plant-based and ?bre-rich dishes to diets that are high in re?ned starches, sugar, fats, salt, processed foods, meat and other animal-source products. Less time is spent preparing meals at home, and consumers, especially in urban areas, increasingly rely on supermarkets, fast food outlets, street food vendors and take-away restaurants.

A combination of unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles has sent obesity rates soaring, not only in developed countries, but also low-income countries, where hunger and obesity often coexist. Now over 670 million adults and 120 million girls and boys (5-19 years) are obese, and over 40 million children under 5 are overweight, while over 820 million people suffer from hunger.

An unhealthy diet is the leading risk factor for deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and certain cancers. Linked with one ?fth of deaths worldwide, unhealthy eating habits are also taking a toll on national health budgets costing up to USD 2 trillion per year. Obesity and other forms of malnutrition affect nearly one in three people. Projections indicate that the number will be one in two by 2025.

The good news is that affordable solutions exist to reduce all forms of malnutrition, but they require greater global commitment and action. Biodiversity In the way our food systems currently work, from agricultural production to processing and retailing, there is little space for fresh, locally produced foods as staple crops such as cereals take priority. Intensi?ed food production, combined with climate change, is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity.

Today only nine plant species account for 66% of total crop production despite the fact that throughout history, more than 6000 species have been cultivated for food. A diverse variety of crops is crucial for providing healthy diets and safeguarding the environment.

What is a healthy diet?

A healthy diet is one that meets the nutritional needs of individuals by providing suf?cient, safe, nutritious and diverse foods to lead an active life and reduce the risk of disease. It includes, among others, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains, and foods that are low in fats (especial-ly saturated fats), sugar and salt. Nutritious foods that constitute a healthy diet are not available or affordable for many people.

Key Facts Hunger and obesity

While over 820 million suffer from hunger, even more people suffer from overweight and obesity. Rising obesity Over 670 million adults and 120 million boys and girls (age 5-19) are obese and over 40 million children are overweight. Death by diet Unhealthy diets, combined with sedentary lifestyles, have overtaken smoking as the world’s number 1 risk factor for disability and death worldwide. The cost of obesity An estimated 2 trillion dollars is spent each year to treat health problems caused by obesity. Hidden hunger Billions of people lack the essential vitamins and minerals their bodies need to lead an active and healthy life.

Unhealthy for the planet Environmental damage caused by the food system could increase 50 -90%, due to the increased consumption of processed foods, meat and other animal-source products in low- and middle-income countries.
A vicious cycle Different forms of malnutrition can co-exist within the same household and even the same individual during their life and can be passed from one generation to the next.

Losing diversity Of some 6,000 plant species have been cultivated for food throughout human history, today only 8 of them supply more than 50% of our daily calories. Climate threats Climate change threatens to reduce not only the quantity of crops, lowering yields, but also the quality or nutritious value.