(Vatican Radio) October 16th marks the celebration of World Food Day. It was established in 1979 to honor the founding date of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in 1945. Today it is observed around the world by more than 150 countries, raising awareness to issues that cause hunger and poverty. Each year in order to highlight areas for focus and improvement, World Food Day adopts a different theme. This year the theme is ‘Climate is changing, food and agriculture must too.’ The global goal for defeating hunger is 2030; it is a goal that cannot be reached without addressing the issue of climate change.
In a message released this week for the occasion and addressed to the Director General of FAO, Pope Francis said everyone has a responsibility to protect the planet for future generations.
Alexandre Maybech, Principal Advisor for Agriculture, Environment, and Climate Change in the office of the Assistant Director General on Culture and Protection of Consumers in FAO, spoke with Vatican Radio’s Hayley Susino about the significance of World Food Day and the implications of climate change.
Explaining the significance of World Food Day, Alexandre Maybech said:
“World Food Day is the occasion once a year to highlight the importance of food, food production, and food security and nutrition all over the world and to have a focus on some major issues of importance for food security.”
Each year there is a different theme chosen to highlight very important issues that impact hunger and food production. This year climate change was selected because it is already having an impact on agriculture and food security all over the world. Climate change is going to have an increasing impact, particularly in areas that are already food insecure.
In his professional opinion, Maybech stated, “climate change could very well jeopardize the objective of eradicating hunger and malnutrition before 2030.”
All too often, people take the accessibility and quantity of food available for granted. “It is important to remind everybody that food is not given. It takes a lot of work to get food on our plate and not everybody in the world has appropriate food on his or her plate everyday.” Maybech continued, “It takes a lot of work, a lot of investment, a lot of thinking and a lot of policies for appropriate institutions all over the world.”
“It is good that everybody in society - consumers, private sectors, and governments take one day to think about what has to be done together to be sure that food security and nutrition is assured all over the world, now and in the future,” emphasized Maybech.
World Food Day affects each and every human being because everybody needs to eat. The holiday helps to raise awareness on specific topics of major importance concerning food consumption and production around the world.
Pope Francis has addressed the FAO on more than one occasion. Maybech spoke about the influence of the Pope’s words:
“All that the Pope has said in FAO or about climate change has had a major impact in the way we work.”
He continued to say that Pope Francis’ words have “placed an immense role on raising awareness in the importance of solidarity, collective action and of how the work to eradicate hunger and malnutrition all over the world is a medical duty to a great extent.”
Pope Francis’ words have put an emphasis on understanding the impacts of everyone’s actions and how they can effect everyone’s lives years into the future. He also established a link between our collective responsibilities about climate change and highlighted that the ones who are most effected are the poorest and most vulnerable people.
Maybech stressed the urgency for collective action:
“There is an urgency to adapt our food production and consumption systems to climate change and also of the urgency of all of us acting to limit as much as possible the affects of climate change precisely because climate change threatening the most vulnerable populations.”
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