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SDG 2 : The Battle of Zero Hunger in the Arena of Inflation, Climate Change, Nutrition and Obesity

A brief analysis on the complexity of SDG 2 : Zero Hunger, what it means and why its progress is deteriorating in developed countries ( based on the UK)


CW: This article addresses subjects that readers may find triggering, including references to metabolic illness, poverty and obesity


What is SDG 2?

With the global population estimated to grow to 8.5 billion in 2030, food security is precarious. We are using the world’s natural resources faster than the world can naturally produce.


The need to create a sustainable food supply, one that satisfies the current demands of the present without potentially jeopardising the needs of the future, is vital whilst considering economic, social, and environmental factors.


The UN created 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to work towards for 2030 and one of them is “Zero Hunger” whose progress has stagnated due to Covid-19 and other conflicts which have restricted global food supplies.


SDG 2 incorporates widening access to nutrition, ending hunger, and increasing agricultural activity that maintains and replenishes ecosystems.


The Cost of Living Crisis


The cost-of-living crisis has sent food prices soaring, along with fuel and energy, pushing people into poverty.



67% of adults in the UK report that their cost of living has increased in the past month, and 97% of those have experienced an increase in the price of food shopping.


Cost is a key driver of food choice by consumers in the UK, and faced with financial restriction, research has shown that those from lower socioeconomic status or facing financial hardship, are more likely to (and do) opt for unhealthy ultra-processed food because it is cheaper.





The Tug of War Between Tackling Hunger with the Sustainability Agenda


A UK 2021 study assessed the nutritional quality, environmental impact and cost of ultra-processed foods. Ultra-processed foods are foods considered high in saturated fat, salt and sugar which can have detrimental effects on our health which Dr Chris van Tulleken has now declared a national emergency.


The study concluded the following :

  • On a per 100 kcal basis, ultra-processed and processed foods had a lower nutritional quality but also had lower Green House Gas Emissions and were cheaper than minimally processed foods


  • Fresh or minimally processed fruit and vegetables do have higher nutritional quality, yet those that were lower in total fat/salt/sugar content had higher carbon emissions and were more expensive


Expert's POV:



The dilemma is that whole foods, which are more sustainable for our bodies and our planet, are expensive and less affordable. Plant-based diets are easier to maintain for those with higher income and socioeconomic status.



Zero Hunger, Socioeconomic Status and Obesity;

You May be Fed, but Are You Nourished?



When you combine a cost of living crisis and more people falling below the poverty line, with ultra-processed food being the most affordable, it means that more people consume food that is damaging to their metabolic health.


In developed countries such as the UK and the US, whilst we have an abundance of food, especially ultra-processed foods, you can temporarily satiate hunger but these readily available and cheap foods can still leave one malnourished.



Are You Nutritionally Hungry?


The ambition of addressing Zero Hunger in all countries, both developed and developing, shouldn't just be about increasing the availability of food.



The food that is the most affordable is ultra-processed, meaning it lacks the nutrients our bodies need, it confuses hunger receptors in the brain compelling us to eat more, it damages our metabolic health and increases our risk of several diseases, including type 2 diabetes.


Whilst the government has introduced Eatwell guidelines for us to follow which are supposed to be affordable, The Food Foundation confirmed that several families do not have the financial means to follow it.


Conclusion

The aim of this article was to convey how SDG2: Zero Hunger is multi-dimensional and extremely complex. It shouldn't just refer to the state of hunger, but also nutritional hunger.


The ambition to achieve zero hunger is optimistic and critical in today's world but it's not just about providing access to food, but rather what kind of food is being made accessible and making sustainability the easiest option.


The secondary purpose of this article was to de-stigmatise people who aren't able to prioritise healthy or sustainable eating.


Behind every choice is a compelling reason, someone shouldn't be condemned for eating meat or processed food, it could be because they cannot afford to go for a healthier option.


People suffering from poor metabolic health or obesity shouldn't be stigmatised or scorned when the food is marketed to us as cheap, readily available and advertised as healthy. In fact, it is actually confusing hunger signals in our brain to get us to overeat and override satiety levels whilst being void of essential nutrients.



How can we find an equilibrium where nutritious and sustainable foods become the most affordable option? Can we rely on the government to make this a reality? Can we hold the food industry accountable?


What do you think?






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