GREAT FOOD STRONG NATION
Children’s Suggestions for Transforming Food Systems in China
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Every child has the right to nutrition (UNICEF, 2020). Yet around the world, far too many children are eating poor-quality diets and facing barriers to accessing and affording nutritious food, driving malnutrition in all its forms. The diets of most children around the world and in China are characterized by limited intake of fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk and/or by a high intake of energy dense, nutrient-poor, ultra-processed food (UNICEF, 2019). Simultaneously, climate change is exerting unprecedented and devastating pressure on food systems, also driven in part by the industrialization of food production and increasing demand for processed food (Serraj et al., 2019).
Understanding how children eat; what they eat; the key challenges they face in accessing quality, sustainable food; and how they wish food systems to change are paramount for a truly child-centred food system (Hawkes et al., 2020 & Neve et al., 2021). A new dialogue about food systems transformation is needed to generate discourses around food mapping, food preferences, consumption patterns, supply chains, food availability and tech solutions. The United Nations Food Systems Summit, to be held during the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 23 September 2021, is setting the stage for a global food systems transformation to support environmental sustainability and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Seizing this moment, UNICEF China in collaboration with the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs (MARA) of the People’s Republic of China conducted 11 food systems dialogues with children from six provinces to capture their understanding on food systems and climate change. A diverse group of children from rural and urban settings will echo their voices in the UN Food Systems Summit, as part of a global initiative with 17 other countries.