It is a governmental responsibility; on an individual level we can contribute.
When we think about issues to do with food, generally the first thought is the lack of food in some random places. However, it is important to be concerned about the lack of access to healthy and nutritious food, not just food in general.
One of the consequences of an unbalanced diet is obesity. The rates of obesity in the developing and developed world are dramatically increasing; which is an international concern due to the implications of having an unhealthy society, which affects individual wellbeing, as well as costing the country socially and economically. For instance, the prevalence of adult obesity on a worldwide level has increased twice from 1980 to 2014, according to the data nowadays more than one third of the world’s population is overweight or obese.
Governments have already noted the importance of promoting a healthy lifestyle and its effects in reducing and preventing the number of people who are suffering from diabetes, cancer (such as breast and colon) and cardiovascular diseases which are one of the main causes of death in recent years.
On an international scale, the main goal of The World Health Organization is ‘to improve equity in health, reduce health risks, and promote healthy lifestyle. In addition research studies have shown that as a result of healthy habits people are happier, more active and more sociable which has great cultural, social and economic implications.
Moreover, the appropriate access to nutritious and adequate food for all is not a privilege but a human right.
Nowadays, there are multiple barriers that stand against having a healthy life. It seems to be something that only certain people has access to, due to the economic, educational, social and cultural barriers.
To be healthy should not be a luxury; it should be a value of unity
Difficulties of access to healthy food
- Healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food. It is continuously the less affordable option and this has implications in the individual food security.
The price of any product is a relevant factor that we all take into account. Even more in the UK, according to a survey in 2013, 91% of people list ‘price’ in the top five priorities. This is because firstly, the market offers a massive range of options which ‘might’ replace the expensive goods. We are used to walking down supermarket aisles and seeing products that are high in sugar and fat at a reasonable price. For instance, a packet of 5 donuts costs 65p or chocolate biscuits from 35p. Eating these kinds of products gives you a feeling of satiety faster and cheaper than if you were to eat a packet of grapes, strawberries or blueberries which generally cost two pounds.
Secondly in recent years the economic crisis, unemployment, physical accesses to food, and transportation have had an important influence on peoples incomes and thereby the money they spend on food and what they prioritise (calorific food rather than healthy). Studies have shown that in the UK the cost of healthy diet is nearly three times that of a regular one, and the price of healthy food continues to rise such as fruits and vegetables. Also, the ‘healthier’ version of food is more expensive.
- Lack of knowledge and education about healthy food
Not all people have the sufficient knowledge about what food is nutritious, how to prepare it and conserve it. Generally they follow a diet based on cultural preconceptions and market trends, which have do not have a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, etc. It has been shown that the level of education and professionalization has influence in the knowledge and consumption of a healthy diet. People with a greater level of education and social class are more concerned and aware of the impacts of (un)healthy diet. This means if we are not part of a privilege and educated social class, we are more likely to eat unhealthily and suffer its consequences. However, the truth about food documentaries are a great example of how social media and television can be more engaged with food education, which is accessible and comprehensible to all.
- Fast paced society
The modern lifestyle encourages us to have everything fast and with no effort. It makes us believe that when we pass by a shop and buy ready meals, we are saving money and time cooking. Also, it is becoming ‘the norm’ to have a sandwich and chips for lunch on the way to a meeting. Home-made meals eaten together at the dinner table with family or friends are less often, nowadays “there is no time” to cook or have fixed hours to eat in company. Clearly, this is not making life easier but is a barrier to having healthy habits.
Governmental responsibilities and actions
There is not magic formula for a healthy world, but some actions can make significant changes starting from the governmental policies
- Monitoring prices of food is a public health necessity. It ought to be affordable to all, eat healthily should stop being a luxury.
- Increasing subsidies to farmers in order to increase local production of fruits and vegetables and the public can have access at a reasonable price.
- Boost education for all how to cook, preserve and consume food properly.
- Food education need to be in a curriculums
- Schools meals should be controlled
- Invest in public awareness campaigns which intend to change bad habits, improve and awareness nutritional knowledge. For instance, 35% British skip breakfast; this number needs to be reduced.
- These campaigns should be addressed to the whole public, regardless of social class or location.
Actions to take on a personal level
57% of British people think food is not important, but we are what we eat so if we eat healthy food the result likely is the absence of diseases.
- If we get more interested in what and how we eat we are boosting our vitality and well-being.
- Knowledge about food should not be something boring
- Promote healthy habits with others
- Support and appreciate the product of local farmers
- Became aware of exactly what we are eating
- Do not follow campaigns that promote eat excessive amounts of sugar and fat
- Be critical about companies which advertise and promote unhealthy foods
- Celebrate healthy food more
- Value sharing food in company
But at the end you are lucky to have a free wheel and the way we eat and our lifestyle is our choice.