Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Happy World Food Day!

In Latin America and the Caribbean, although the average standard of living has increased in recent decades, income inequality remains widespread. Impoverished people, particularly in rural areas, still face many barriers to achieving food security, which is defined as having access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. Food insecurity is particularly a concern for low-income countries where Partners works, such as Haiti and Nicaragua, which are ranked as the poorest and second poorest, respectively, in the Western Hemisphere.

In Nicaragua, many families subsist on just a few dollars a day and consume disproportionate amounts of corn, beans, and rice, rather than fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods. Seeds are unaffordable or inaccessible due to transportation barriers and adequate knowledge, funds, and resources for seasonal fruit and vegetable preservation are limited. Many rural and food insecure families do not own canning or drying equipment, and without electricity in some homes, freezing or refrigerating surplus food is not an option. Unsafe drinking water also poses a food safety risk, particularly for babies and young children with developing immune systems.

In Haiti, poor households continue to suffer from significant nutrition insecurity. Vulnerable households don’t just lack access to a diverse range of nutritious foods; family members are also missing vital knowledge about appropriate health and nutrition behaviors and how to apply them. Some of these behaviors include best practices for infant and young child feeding, maternal nutrition, prevention of diseases like diarrheal disease, malaria, and parasitic infections, and proper hygiene and sanitation. In Haiti, community structures that support optimal maternal and child health and nutrition practices are limited in their capacity, and rural poor communities remain generally underserved by the formal public health system. All of these factors result in a high prevalence of undernutrition among women and infants. 

Through trainings and technical assistance, Partners Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program and Haiti Nutrition Security Program (NSP) are playing a significant role in tackling some of these issues. In Nicaragua, F2F volunteers have held workshops on vegetable gardening, nutrition, and how to incorporate new foods into one’s diet in a way that’s appealing to children and hesitant adults. Families also learned about food dehydration and blanching techniques using a wood stove oven, which is commonly found in Nicaraguan kitchens.

 In Haiti, the newly launched Nutrition Security Program hinges on a holistic community health, nutrition and livelihoods approach. Activities include training healthcare workers and community members to improve their knowledge and behavior surrounding health and nutrition. Other activities will promote income generation and food security through seed banks, nurseries, and animal husbandry, particularly among women. By partnering with local Haitian counterparts, the NSP will ensure that its activities and strategies meet the specific needs of malnourished populations, since each region of the country is culturally and economically distinct. 

Increasing education and awareness about food systems in impoverished communities is an important step towards addressing nutritional deficiencies, promoting better health, generating family income, and developing local economies. World Food Day is a perfect opportunity to bring these issues to light and demonstrate the impactful work that Partners has accomplished. Although many challenges still remain, through volunteer visits, technical assistance and training, Partners' Agriculture and Food Security programs are making a long-term impact on the people they serve.

To find out more about World Food Day, please visit http://www.worldfooddayusa.org/

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