Next Wednesday 16 October is World Food Day. Is this the day we all get to go to McDonalds and gorge on a Big Mac followed by a giant bag of Haribo sweets and celebrate food? No, it's about raising awareness of food related global issues.
You wouldn't be wrong in thinking that most efforts are aimed at developing countries, but the problem of malnutrition and the like can hit closer to home such as the sad story of Hamzah Khan. When I was doing some research on the topic, I was alarmed to read that poorly nourished patients in hospital have three times more infections and a 30% - 70% longer stay in hospital than their well fed counterparts. Malnutrition healthcare costs Ireland a staggering €1.4 million a year, which is more than obesity and overweight healthcare put together!
These stats caught my eye because I recently had the misfortune to spend 2 days in hospital to insert metal pins and a plate into a broken ankle (the pain!!!) which happened by an unintended attempt at ice-skating. Anyway, the excellent doctors, nurses, physios and efficient ambulance lads put it all back together for me and luckily my recovery has been swift. I do believe, however, that my healthy diet has had a significant influence on my healing and recovery.
Anyway, it is certainly true that World Food Day highlights to us who have plenty to eat each day, the real hardships millions face throughout the day. I remember when I was in my early teens, it was Shrove/Pancake Tuesday and my mum had spent all afternoon making pancakes for my dad, my seven siblings and me. For some reason I refused one and she was cross. She was cross, not because I had spurned her delicious pancakes, but because my refusal would mean food wasted and there were others to consider in a far off land called Biafra where war in the late 60s meant suffering and famine. She had a huge sense of injustice and it rubbed off on me.
It was soon after this episode that I decided I would become a Home Economist. I could at the very least teach cooking skills, basic nutrition and home management skills which would help reduce food waste and keep families healthy which meant so much to every mum back in the good old days. Things have changed, moved on, but the same food issues remain. If like my mum you are concerned about giving your family a healthy start in life, trying to organise your own healthy eating and want to reduce your food waste in line with the FAO World Food Day these pointers might help.
1. Understand basic nutrition and balanced diet
Eat a range of food from each of the 5 Food Groups.
2. Buy healthy food and as close to the right amount as you can calculate
It was easier for your mum and mine to buy healthy food, as that's all there was up until the 80s. Healthy food just means those rich in nutrients and as close to nature as possible.
Buying the right amount of food requires some organisation, however it is much easier when technology is used to plan meals. Having the right amount of food in your kitchen each week will reduce your food waste making sure you're mother won't be quoting Biafra at you.
3. Know how to use leftovers
Because of the way food is packaged and recipes are calculated, we will always have a little uncooked and cooked food over. Knowing how to store food, how to serve food and how to use up leftovers when they are still nutritious all help to keep you healthy and reduce food waste.
4. Get to love everyday cooking
As a teacher of home economics, I was always tried to instill a love of cooking in my students. I knew that in the future the majority (girls and boys) would spend many hours every day thinking about food, shopping for food and cooking and eating. If they didn't love cooking, it would become a daily torture. Now with online meal planning and grocery shopping available and becoming the norm, loving cooking is the start which makes every day cooking easier than ever.
5. Local and global food issues
Don't underestimate your efforts. Every time you support brands that address local and global food issues honestly and passionately, you are helping. Whether it's buying fair trade coffee as often as you can, purchasing locally grown vegetables or even using meal planners to reduce food waste in your own home, every little effort counts for them and of course you.