Unilever external affairs director Anne Heughan presented a food manufacturer’s perspective on food security as part of a panel at the FoodDrinkEurope Congress, at Expo Milano 2015 in Milan. FoodBev’s Claire Phoenix managed to catch up with her for an exclusive interview.
What are the key challenges on food and nutrition security?
We need to ensure that the food system works better for all. Industry has a key role here in producing safe and nutritious food in a sustainable way. Additionally we can play a role in reducing food loss and waste. Currently some 1.3bn tonnes a year, a third of the food that is produced, is wasted. Of particular concern is the loss of nutrition-dense produce – it is estimated that 40–50 % of fruit and vegetables are wasted each year. Much of this is due to inadequate storage and processing near the point of harvest. We need to combat food waste end to end.
We can also use our supply chains to make a difference to those who need it most. We know that this is a critical pathway and needs to take centre stage in all we do. We are currently working in partnership with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) to understand how we can improve the nutrition of farmers and workers in our extended supply chain. Unilever aims to reach all of the 800,000 smallholder farmers and farm workers in our global supply chain, many of whom are women, in order to improve their livelihoods.
How can governments, UN, civil society and the private sector work together?
The big food and nutrition security challenges require collective action. We need to find innovative ways of working together across the food system. This is not only about continuing to produce products with less salt, sugar or saturated fat or about providing better information to consumers – it is also about reviewing how we can make a difference across the entire food chain. For instance we are undertaking a school meals programme with World Food Programme that helps smallholder farmers increase the quality and quantity of their crops, and provides nutritious meals to schoolchildren in Bangladesh and Indonesia. It is through multi-sector partnerships like these that we can create scalable, replicable and sustainable models to improve food and nutrition security.
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