By: Dr. Kent Bradley, M.D., M.B.A, M.P.H.- Vice President, Medical Affairs Nutrition Education
In 1994 while serving in the military, I was sent to Rwanda to address the aftermath of the humanitarian crisis that developed after the Civil War there. As a result of the war, many children were left orphaned and were being cared for in relief camps. It was there that I witnessed hunger and undernourishment in epic proportions for the first time. This is where I saw the raw impact of malnutrition—children suffered from an overall lack of calories and nutritious food that left them frail and stunted their growth.
Over twenty years later, these sad conditions continue to exist all over the world. World Food Day, which is recognized on October 16th. raises awareness about these problems and is an important call to action not only to reflect, but also to act on improving nutrition around the world. It is a reminder that our work as a society will not be fully complete until we achieve #zerohunger.
While the issue is complex and varies among communities, there are some overarching realities we should consider:
- Access to nutritious food. Making healthy food easily available is critically important. This lack of access presents itself in varied ways: 98% of the 795 million undernourished peoplelive in developing countries, where poor harvesting practices, food wastage and wars have had a negative impact on the availability of food and have led to a destruction of the environment, which is critical to grow food. There is also the scenario of“food deserts” in urban areas, which refers to the phenomenon where communities lack supermarkets and grocery stores that offer fresh produce and other nutritious food items and, instead, see an overabundance of fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer mostly unhealthy options. In both cases, the lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
- Health equity. It is perhaps no surprise that the lack of access to nutritious food is usually found in impoverished areas, which makes the cycle of deprivation continue: it’s not that people don’t want to eat healthy food, they just don’t have the opportunity to do so. Impoverished people also face significant greater barriers to receive health and nutrition education, which is important because knowledge is cornerstone to address hunger and undernourishment problems.
- Education. We have confused access to calories with access to nutrition, and here is the irony: while millions of individuals go hungry, over 650 million peopleworldwide suffer from obesity. Having access to food is not about caloric intake, but rather about nutrient density: a measure of how much nutrition you get per serving or per calorie eaten. This confusion is also deeply rooted in habits and convenience: a recent studyfound that more than one in three American adults eat fast food on a given day. Misinformation, time, price, and availability influence fast food consumption.
Ending all forms of malnutrition, hunger and ensuring access by everyone, in particular infants and children, the poor and people in vulnerable situations, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round is one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to which Herbalife Nutrition aims to contribute. Herbalife Nutrition’s vast network of independent distributorsprovide nutrition education and access to convenient, nutrient dense products all over the world. We know a #zerohunger world will take us all pitching in, and ourdistributors are a powerful vehicle for change.