UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore's remarks at the Global Food Systems Summit Youth Dialogue
As prepared for delivery
NEW YORK, 4 May 2021 – "Deputy Secretary-General. Honoured guests. Ladies and gentlemen. And a special greeting to the young people who have joined us.
"This event is a chance to think boldly and collectively about how to strengthen food systems in the future. And to hear from young people themselves. They have the biggest stake in the future. We need their ideas and insights.
"The last two decades have shown that we can make progress. Over that period, the prevalence of undernourished children has declined by one-third. And the number of undernourished children has been reduced by 55 million.
"Great achievements. But we must do far more.
"One in three children is not growing well due to malnutrition.
"Half of all children don’t have access to the healthy diets they need to reach their full potential.
"And we’re seeing stubbornly high rates of wasting and stunting — and a worrying increase in overweight and obesity.
"At the same time, the world faces a toxic combination of inequalities, poverty, conflict, climate change, COVID-19, and even looming famines that threaten further progress on nutrition.
"Without urgent action, an additional nine million children under the age of five may suffer from wasting by next year.
"To prevent this, we need to overhaul our approach to food systems. From decisions about what food is produced…to how it’s processed, packaged and promoted…and what impact these decisions have on children’s nutrition.
"Too often, food systems put profit over purpose. This places the most nutritious food out of reach for many households. Families are forced to turn to heavily marketed, unhealthy alternatives. These may be cheaper and more available. But they also lead to poor nutritional outcomes, threatening children’s development, growth and — in the worst cases — survival itself.
"We also need to take into account these systems’ impact on our planet. Especially when industrial food production contributes one third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And when the use of fertilizers and pesticides have such a devastating ecological impact.
"For the sake of our children and our planet, we need to turn this around.
"And the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit is an important start.
"It will bring together governments, businesses, NGOs and young people themselves to begin the process of reforming food systems in a number of ways.
"We need to improve the quality of what children eat. This includes mandatory standards for children’s food, public policies that promote healthy food, and supply-chain interventions to fortify staple foods for young children.
"We need to improve the quality of children’s food environments – where they live, learn, eat, and meet. This includes ending marketing of unhealthy food that targets children, serving better food in schools, and labelling foods with accurate information that children and families can understand.
"We need to improve feeding practices — especially in early childhood. This includes supporting breastfeeding and helping parents and children alike make better food choices for themselves and for the planet.
"And we need to find ways to minimize the environmental damage of food systems and reduce their carbon footprint.
"At every step, we need to listen to the voices of children and young people — just like you. You have some of the best and brightest ideas about how we can change food systems for the better.
"And so, to all of the young people here today: lend us your ideas, energies and insights.
"Help us shape better food systems in every country. And let’s find new ways to deliver good nutrition — and a healthier planet — for every country, every community and every child. Thank you."