The National Food and Nutrition Centre (NFNC) was established by Government in 1982 to address the country's nutritional problems. It works under the Ministry of Health and is a national resource centre for food and nutrition. Under the Fiji Plan of Action for Nutrition (FPAN) 2010-2014, Policy 2 deals with promoting and sustaining household food security.
NFNC has a demonstration food garden and has produced a garden package to encourage communities and individuals to produce food for their own consumption. The organisation assists communities and groups establish and maintain backyard garden by providing technical advice and supplying seeds.
Since the 1980s, NFNC has coordinated the observance of World Food Day (WFD) in Fiji as one of its activities to address food security. NFNC coordinates divisional and sub-divisional level celebrations and distributes materials sent by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) which includes international posters, media and publicity materials and an information note on the WFD theme as well as the Director General's message to all organizations and WFD centres throughout the country.
This year's World Food Day theme released by FAO is: "Agricultural Cooperatives: Key to Feeding the World" highlights the role cooperatives play in improving food security and contributing to the eradication of hunger. The National Celebration on October 16 this year is hosted by the Western Division at the PA grounds in Rakiraki town. All sites celebrating WFD this year are doing so to heighten public awareness on the problem of hunger, malnutrition and poverty, as well as focus on agriculture and food production.
Food and Nutrition Security
The world is facing a potential crisis in terms of food security. The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing "when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life". The challenge in Fiji is to produce and supply enough safe and nutritious food in a sustainable way for our population.
Food security is built on three pillars: Food availability (sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis), Food access (having sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet) and Food use (appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation).
Clearly linked to health, food security deals with whether households get enough food, how it is distributed within the household and whether that food fulfils the nutrition needs of all members of the household. Nutrition security is commonly defined as including both physical and economic access to food that meets people's dietary needs as well as their food preferences. In many countries, health problems related to dietary excess such as malnutrion and foodborne diarrhea have become an ever increasing threat and burden.
Agriculture is the largest employment sector in most developing countries and international agriculture agreements are crucial to a country's food security. A group of World Trade Organization (WTO) member states recommend that the current negotiations on agricultural agreements allow developing countries to re-evaluate and raise tariffs on key products to protect national food security and employment. Taking these steps may prevent over-exploitation of natural resources that may jeopardize domestic food security in the long term and also ensure that imported food products are of acceptable quality and safe to eat.
Money spent on locally produced foods stays in the community longer, creating jobs and supporting farmers. According to a research, a dollar spent locally generates twice as much income for the local economy. When businesses are not owned locally, money leaves the community at every transaction. However, sometimes local food products may be more expensive than imported products but the more we buy foods imported from other regions or countries, the harder it becomes for local farmers to make a living. Buying fresh produce directly from farmers' markets enables farmers to make a greater profit from the products they sell.
Since local foods travel less distance, less time passes between when it is harvested and when it is eaten. Therefore, they are fresher and tastier and more nutritious than imported foods. The longer fruits or vegetables are stored before eating, the more nutrients are lost. Studies have shown that vitamin C and vitamin A levels are significantly reduced in fruits and vegetables that have traveled further distances after being harvested.
Grow Your Own Food
The ability to grow food is a basic skill that which provides an opportunity to enrich your personal well-being. It allows you to produce fresh food, higher in minerals and vitamins than the food bought from the supermarket and markets. It can be of the same quality as shop-bought organic food, without the hefty premium that shops place on organic produce. The energy required to grow food improves physical fitness and is also psychologically beneficial.
Growing your own food reduces dependence upon earned money. For those on low incomes, for whom food costs represent a major part of their expenditure, displacing bought food with home-grown food has a very beneficial impact on home finances.
Eat a Balanced Diet
A healthy and balanced diet also contains a variety of foods from within each food group (Health, Energy and Body Building), since each food offers different macronutrients (the energy providing nutrients, namely carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
When planning a balanced diet, we must also keep in mind the energy requirements for adults and children. No single food can supply all nutrients needed to maintain good health. Similarly, not all foods in the same group contain the same nutrients and in same amounts. Bele, for instance, does not contain as much IRON as Watercress (karisi) and Tubua which are very good sources of iron. Choosing foods from all the food groups each day and choosing a variety of foods within each food group will help you meet your nutritional requirements. It will also make your diet more interesting.