October 16, is World Food Day. It marks the founding of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization 70 years ago, following World War II. The day is observed every year to raise awareness about ongoing hunger and poverty.
The theme for this year’s World Food Day is "Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty." It’s in line with the FAO’s new State of Food and Agriculture report that called for “sustained private and public investments and social protections for the rural poor."
At a ceremony marking World Food Day held at the Milan Expo site, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated the goal of eradicating hunger by 2030.
"Hunger is more than a lack of food. It’s a terrible injustice, unfairness and inequality," he said. "We are here today to pledge again to achieve food security for all the people around the world — to build a global movement to end hunger. This will go hand in hand with greater health, economic development and social inclusion for individuals and societies."
Ending chronic hunger
Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General José Graziano da Silva praised the vision of the founders of the U.N. agency in 1945.
"There is enough food to feed all," he said. "Let us thank those who have made this amazing achievement possible. We want to thank farmers, fishermen, foresters and all those who work in the food system. They assure our survival and protect the fragile natural resources on which humanity depends."
But Graziano da Silva says despite there being enough food for all, nearly 800 million people around the world go to bed hungry each night.
"Chronic hunger and famine are the worst manifestation of malnutrition," he said. "This is the greatest injustice of our time. Many in our world of plenty still cannot live with health and dignity and die early because of their hunger."
The FAO chief said good nutrition spurs economic growth, peace and stability.
A message from Pope Francis was read at the World Food Day ceremony.
"We are living in a time where the desperate search for profit — the focus on individual interests, the effects of unfair policies — hinder national initiatives or hamper effective cooperation by the international community," said Monsignor Fernando Chica Arellano, the Vatican’s observer to the FAO. "Therefore, much remains to be done with regards to achieving food security, which is still a distant goal for many people.
Social protection for migrants
International Fund for Agricultural Development President Kanayo Nwanze says Europe’s migrant and refugee crisis highlights the need for social protection.
"Thousands of fathers and mothers are putting their children and their lives at risk because the dangers at home seem greater than the dangers of the sea," said Nwanze. "Everyday, thousands of children, women and men walk across deserts and mountains looking for security in a new land.
Nwanze said the “conditions that compel people to flee their homes are also the conditions that trap people in rural poverty.”
"Conflict, hunger, poverty, inequality, poor governance, persistent indignity and the lack of opportunity. Addressing these conditions will require sustained and consistent investment in development," added Nwanze.
World Food Program Executive Director Ertharin Cousin agreed.
"People seek refuge or migrate to other lands, to other countries when there is no opportunity, no food and no hope at home. We will, we must, provide that peace and that hope that so many are seeking," he said.
Cousin called on everyone to join together to build one world with a brighter future and to end hunger forever.