IITA scientist highlights healthy diets at World Food Day seminar

21 November 2019

World Food Day (WFD) is celebrated annually on 16 October and dedicated to tackle hunger across the globe. The global community observes this day to commemorate the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which raises awareness about problems in food supply, distribution, and security.

Busie Maziya-Dixon presenting a seminar on healthy diets.

The theme for this year’s observance is “Our Actions are our Future; healthy diets for a #Zerohunger world.” IITA took part in this year’s observance with a seminar on nutrition and  a “walk for a purpose” by IITA staff across all hubs.

The increasing number of undernourished people across the globe is a major concern and IITA’s mission to facilitate agricultural solutions to overcome hunger and poverty makes WFD very significant to the Institute. According to the 2019 global hunger index, “Levels of hunger are “serious” or “alarming” in 47 countries and “extremely alarming” in one: Central African Republic.”
It is reported that these numbers are even higher in regions across sub-Saharan Africa due to problems of extreme weather conditions, declining crop yield in some regions, and affordability, accessibility, and availability of healthy foods.

Speaking at the seminar, IITA Food and Nutrition Scientist Busie Maziya-Dixon gave a clear indication of the role a healthy diet plays in achieving a zero hunger world. While lack of food and hunger are widely reported on, Maziya-Dixon outlined the consequences of an inadequate diet and called for more to be done to address hidden hunger, which is a less obvious form of malnutrition.

She highlighted several non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity, and noted that these are often related to and caused by wrong diet and that people can have control over them through what they eat. “Consuming a healthy diet throughout your life will help prevent malnutrition and these non-communicable diseases,” she said.

She gave dietary advice for both adults and children, which people should consider when planning their meals including consumption limits for different nutrient types.

IITA staff participating in the World Food Day Walk for a Purpose.

She spoke of some of the factors associated with hunger and undernourishment. According to FAO, these include “the move from seasonal plant-based and fiber-rich dishes to diets that are in refined fats, sugar and heavily processed foods, lack of home-made foods, and sedentary diets (FAO, 2019).”

Maziya-Dixon encouraged the seminar participants to promote healthy dietary habits individually as this is one way to achieve food security in the larger society.

Speaking before the walk, IITA Deputy Director General, Partnerships for Delivery, Kenton Dashiell noted that the World Food Day is important to the Institute, as the idea surrounding the observance is an integral part of IITA’s mission. “One of our main goals is to do work that will help everyone in Africa have healthy diets. And that is why we work on our mandate crops; we work not only to produce crops, we work to produce healthy food,” he said.

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