The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is pleased to present the 2017 Next Generation Delegates blog series. This year’s Delegation was comprised of 20 outstanding students from universities across the United States and around the world studying agriculture, food, and related disciplines. We were thrilled to feature these emerging leaders at the Global Food Security Symposium 2017, and look forward to sharing the exciting work of this extraordinary group.
By Shashank Gaur, PhD candidate, Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and 2017 Next Generation Delegate
Food security has been at the core of the past Millennium Development Goals and present Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Incidentally, SDG 2 specifically aims at ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture. Although significant efforts have been made towards achieving food security via improving access to safe and nutritious food, relatively less attention has been given to the concept of nutrition security, which includes both adequate intake and effective absorption of nutrients in the body.
Undernutrition, as defined by the UNICEF, is an outcome of two immediate causes: inadequate dietary intake in terms of quality and quantity of macro- (hunger) and micronutrients (hidden hunger), and repeated infectious diseases such as parasitic and bacterial infections. It is important to consider that improving access to food alone may not be effective in communities with poor sanitation and hygiene because prevalent infectious diseases such as gut parasitic infections can result in gut inflammation and undermine the absorption of nutrients from food while causing persistent diarrhea.
As a child, born and raised in India, I had the first-hand experience with nutrition insecurity. Being from a middle class and a food-secure family in India, I had the access to healthy and nutritious food at all times. Nevertheless, I remember being chronically underweight with frequent episodes of sickness, diarrhea, and fatigue, through my childhood, which resulted in low productivity and overall growth and development. As a food and nutrition scientist now, it is my lifetime goal to identify solutions to the multietiological problem of undernutrition. In my opinion, the current interventions require reforms to simultaneously focus on food, health, and care along with nutritional counseling to holistically address the challenge of food and nutrition security.
The Global Food Security Symposium 2017, organized by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, was an incredible opportunity for me to interact with global leaders, scientists, politicians, foreign policy advisors, and fellow students from other universities and bolster my ambitious research ideas and concepts aimed at alleviating undernutrition among at-risk populations via food-based solutions. I was excited to see the tremendous optimism and hope among my fellow next generation delegates 2017, who are working synergistically to make our world a better place. The timely recommendations listed in the Council’s newly released report, Stability in the 21st Century: Global Food Security for Peace and Prosperity, call for continued research investments on scientific and technological innovations to improve the food and nutrition security in the current era of increasing population, growing political instability, rising incomes, changing the climate and building youth bulge. I completely agree with the authors of the report that it is essential for both developed and developing nations to work together and commit to identifying technologies and solutions that could comprehensively alleviate nutrition insecurity.
As the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon once said “we don’t have plan B as there is no planet B.” I believe that we, the next generation, have a great responsibility and opportunity ahead of us, and with the support of organizations such as the Council on Global Affairs I have no doubt that we will make the plan A work in order to potentially achieve a hunger and malnutrition free world!