In the lead up to Sunday's Olympic hunger event, my head kept inadvertently dubbing the event 'The Hunger Games'. On the surface, an event to call on world leaders to step up efforts to reduce child malnutrition doesn't appear to have much to do with a post-apocalyptic novel/blockbuster movie. Low and middle income district children risking their lives to feed their families and being made to fight each other to the death, as those from the high income district watch dispassionately on television while tucking in to piles of cream cakes?
On the other hand, perhaps this dystopia isn't so very far from reality. So perhaps high income countries are not intentionally exploiting the populations of lower income countries for their own amusement and empowerment, but just like reality, the point of The Hunger Games is that it's not actually a game -millions of people in poor areas are disempowered, sick and dying due to under-nutrition, while millions of richer people, bursting with nutrients, are socialized into seeing this disparity as the norm. Which leads to low and unsustained investment in nutrition development, instead of the injection of commitment that's needed from all angles.
With the Olympic Games offering a backdrop of international cooperation and solidarity, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Brazilian Vice President Michel Temer co-hosted the much-anticipated Olympics hunger event. In coming together to celebrate the fabulous human achievements in the past few weeks, it's inspiring that the host countries of the Olympics are also coming together to look at how more people can reach their potential - in other words, what we can achieve beyond more gold medals by 2016.
Better access to nutritious foods at prices people can afford isn't an impossible task. It's a matter of enabling people to get not just more food, but higher quality food - food that contains the vitamins and minerals that they need to grow and develop properly, particularly during the first thousand days from conception to age two when nutrition has the biggest impact on people. Even the poorest people buy lots of their food - and there are countless opportunities during the production of that food to improve its vitamin and mineral content. A group of Nobel prize-winning economists think this has the potential to have the biggest impact of all development investments. The key is thinking big: to have serious effect, the solutions need to reach billions of people. That scale dwarfs what most charities or donors can do alone.
At the global hunger event, Marc van Ameringen, the CEO of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), my place of work, chaired a panel that looked at how public private partnerships can help make it happen, at massive scale, right along the value chain from farm to fork. And businesses involved at all the different levels of this value chain are getting on board, and changing their products, and their ways of working (and who they work with) to deliver the access to affordable nutrition that countries want and people deserve. This will save lives, improve lives, and it could raise countries' GDPs by 2-3%. Big challenges need big solutions - and government, NGO and business collaboration can help grow these solutions. Momentum is rising. The UN's Scaling Up Nutrition Movement is a good example of that. The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is another. Let's hope the momentum soon reaches fever pitch, because hunger isn't really a game, and with G8 coming up, Britain can help jolt the world out of our dystopia and really sort this out.