– COVID-19 has magnified global food insecurity and is driving unhealthy eating and worsening malnutrition, food experts say. They have called for deliberate global investment in food as medicine on the back of growing diet-related illnesses.
Famed Greek physician, Hippocrates, foretold the future of food. He is attributed to have said: ‘Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food’. COVID-19 has pushed the conversation about food as medicine onto the world agenda as more people are paying attention to their health and increasingly what they eat.
“COVID 19 has exposed American population to infectious diseases, and it has started off the conversation around food is medicine and how we need to reset our food system to create higher quality and more nutrient-dense food,” physician and author, Mark Hyman, told a plenary session at the virtual ‘Resetting the Food System from Farm to Fork’ dialogue co-hosted by the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) and Food Tank.
Hyman said a rejigged food system which creates better health for the population was a good strategy for pandemic resistance. He said food as medicine is part of medical care because it works better and faster and cheaper than most drugs and is probably the most effective treatment we have for most chronic illnesses.
“Science is clear that more nutrient density and food quality plays a huge role in human health and the protector foods, foods that protect you against disease and have medicinal properties,” said Hyman. He proposed the eating of more inexpensive, plant-based foods. “We need to rethink farming and introduce more nutrient-dense foods.”
Early this year, the United Nations warned that the pandemic would escalate a global food crisis – the worst in 50 years. The international body said the pandemic would make nutrition beyond the reach of many.
“Our food systems are failing, and the COVID-19 pandemic is making things worse,” UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, warned, proposing three action plan to bolster a failing food system.
Guterres said countries should designate food and nutrition services as essential while implementing protections for those who work in the sector, prioritise food supply chains and strengthen social protection for young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, older people and other at-risk groups. He also advocated the transformation of food systems for a more inclusive and sustainable world.
More than 820 million people in the world do not have enough to eat even though there is plenty of food to feed everyone. Globally, some 144 million children under five years are stunted as a result of malnutrition.
The UN has warned that nearly 690 million people, or 8.9 percent of the world’s population, were undernourished