What and how we eat affects our health and wellbeing. We depend on farmers to continue working their fields, on supermarket cashiers to show up at their jobs, and on drivers to deliver our food to markets or front doors. But there are strains. In some places, nutritious food is becoming scarce. Among other concerns, food is being hoarded, leaving little on shelves for consumers.
All of us must act. We must work together to save lives, meet immediate needs through emergency responses, and plan for longer-term solutions to support recovery and build resilience. Governments and responsible leaders need to promote and protect reliable, safe, and affordable food supplies, especially for the world’s most vulnerable.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, food insecurity was already a severe problem. More than 820 million people -one in every nine - do not have enough to eat. Of these, 113 million are coping with hunger so severe that it poses an immediate threat to life and livelihoods. The pandemic’s economic impact will cause these numbers to rise. The most vulnerable groups are the urban poor, inhabitants of remote areas, migrants, the informally employed, people in conflict areas, and other vulnerable groups. As the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition recently noted, malnourished individuals with compromised immunity are more at risk and susceptible to the spread of the virus.
Any effective response to a COVID-19-related food crisis requires examining how to restructure our global and national food systems. The goal is to ensure political and financial stability, protect our communities from poor health and environmental degradation, and ensure economic vitality. Food producers must ensure that healthy, nutritious foods are available and not wasted.
A guest editorial!