Hunger Campaign WVUS

The way towards equitable food systems and enough for children

Dana Buzducea explains that her faith and a fierce passion to see the world’s children properly nourished is why she is challenging leaders in Rome. #UNFSS2023

21 July 2023

In parts of the ancient world unwanted babies were sometimes abandoned and left to die exposed to the elements. We like to think that, in the modern world, such cruel devaluing of a child’s life and future is a thing of the past. Yet, in 2023, the world looks on while more than three million children die each year from malnutrition and millions more are physically and mentally stunted by a lack of adequate nutrition.

As with the ancient Romans and Spartans, such child abandonment is not just a moral scandal, but it makes no social or economic sense given that the children lost to malnutrition might have been a country’s doctors, lawyers, social workers, and teachers. They could have been its producers, traders, and consumers, as well as mothers and fathers themselves producing the next generation. Families are left devastated when malnutrition kills or maims a child, but a community and a nation lose out too. 

That is why I, in my role as World Vision International’s advocacy leader, am attending the UN Food System Summit Stocktaking event in Rome, Italy: to support every child’s right to nutritious food by advocating for food systems that are more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient, and that deliver better development outcomes for the most vulnerable children, families, and communities.

Recovering lost progress

For decades, World Vision colleagues at national, regional, and global levels have advocated for policy changes so that children can live their lives in all their fullness. The world was making real strides towards Sustainable Development Goal 2: Ending Hunger by 2030 until COVID, conflict, climate crisis, and the global economic downturn combined to roll back years of progress made in poverty reduction.

This is why leaders of all kinds need to double down and do whatever it takes to ensure every single child gets enough nutritious food. These leaders must also include children and youth, and I am proud to be joined in Italy’s capital by one of World Vision’s youth environmental champions, Ruth Jerotich. She will be speaking about the importance of nature-based solutions to building more resilient and sustainable food systems and how they can provide one answer to mitigating the climate crisis.

Hearing young people

In 2018 when Ruth was a member of a World Vision environmental club she learned about Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR), where farmers selectively prune existing trees and encourage the regrowth of some trees and shrubs that have been cut or burnt. She then formed a grassroots youth movement to create community awareness of FMNR as a climate change adaption, mitigation and land restoration technique in her home country of Kenya.

Ruth’s leadership and success mobilizing young people at home is an example of how World Vision works to equip children to raise their voices and those of their peers so that service providers and adult leaders understand what the most vulnerable people want and need to flourish.

Making key calls

At the UN Food System Summit Stocktaking event, World Vision will be advocating for:

  1. Investment in evidence-based, nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive action that improves nutrition for children. Examples of these include: breastfeeding, infant and young child feeding, wasting and anaemia prevention, as well as social protection initiatives such as school meals programmes, child benefits, and the adoption of “superfoods” that address dietary gaps.
  2. Governments to encourage children to promote food system transformation in the long term, through engaging them in age-appropriate school-based curriculums and community-based learning opportunities. These could include highlighting healthy diets and nutritious foods, encouraging sustainable agricultural practices and providing integrated school meals programmes that ensure healthy, culturally appropriate and nutritious foods, sourced as locally as possible.
  3. Governments and schools to encourage and support youth to view engagement and employment across the food system as a rewarding and remunerative career path, through offering training in climate-smart and green jobs.

“Children are the future” might be a cliché but when it comes to strengthening food systems it’s 100% accurate. We are witnessing the largest global child hunger and malnutrition crisis in modern history. This must be addressed urgently to prevent child hunger and malnutrition from being passed from one generation to the next, creating a perpetual cycle of crisis.

Faith-based partnerships

Along with one-to-one meetings with key decision-makers and partners involved in improving food systems, Ruth and I will be joining Gopal Patel, Senior Advisor for Center for Earth Ethics; Sir David Nabarro, Strategic Director and Co-Founder of 4SD Foundation; Shaza Hamo, CEO of AMAN women organisation; and Lina Mahy, Technical Officer of the World Health Organization, to continue a conversation begun in 2021 on faith and food.

 “Power of Faith communities in equitable, resilient and sustainable food system transformation is a side event that will revisit a 2021 Reflection and Statement drawn up by an interfaith group that called for the “equitable transformation of our food systems to prioritize people and planet over profit.” The event will discuss good practice, celebrate what is working, and identity key gaps and opportunities for updates in policy or programming to promote more nutritious, equitable and sustainable food systems. 

Children at the centre

Only by working together, by challenging heads of state, government, civil society, faith communities and businesses to put the needs of children at the centre of food systems, can we take bold steps toward more nutritious, equitable and sustainable food systems.

Rome may once have been a place where children were abandoned, but, this Food System Summit Stocktaking event, if we are all determined to do whatever it takes to fix the world’s food systems and  end  child hunger and malnutrition by 2030, Rome could go down in history as the place where countless children were given a second chance at a life in all its fullness.  Every child should enjoy enough nourishing food to thrive.

To attend the “Power of Faith communities in equitable, resilient and sustainable food system transformation” event on July 25 at 5pm London, UK time register here

Dana Buzducea is World Vision's Partnership Leader, Advocacy and External Engagement. For more than two decades, from social work in Romania to leading World Vision's global advocacy work, she has always been passionately committed to ending injustices facing children. Follow her on Twitter @DanaBuzducea