"Eat Well, Grow Well” - UNESCO Supports Food Safety and Security in China
Chinese rural schools integrating nutrition and food safety into the teaching curriculum, women’s associations engaging to raise awareness on child-nutrition and media practitioners enhancing their capacity to professionally report on food safety are among the achievements of actions undertaken by the UNESCO Office Beijing in the framework of a UN Joint project. Aiming at“Improving Nutrition, Food Safety and Food Security for China’s Most Vulnerable Women and Children”the project has been supported by the Spanish Government through the MDG-Fund’s thematic window on Children, Food Security and Nutrition.
China’s rapid economic growth has translated into consistent progress in its drive to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), and many targets have been accomplished in advance of 2015, including the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, universal primary education, and reduction in the under five mortality rates. Nonetheless, it is acknowledged that China still faces challenges in achieving sustainable development particularly in ensuring full access to food for vulnerable groups, especially in remote rural areas, where estimated 91 million people are still at risk of experiencing food insecurity. Another challenge concerns the quality of nutrition and the safety of the food chain from production to consumption.
It is to address these challenges in an innovative and sustainable way that in the past three years UNESCO has joined seven other UN agencies and ten Chinese national agencies in the implementation of the project aiming at improving nutrition, food safety and food security in six of China’s poorest counties: Pan and Zheng’an (Guizhou Province); Huize and Wuding (Yunnan Province); Luonan and Zhen’an (Shaanxi Province). Activities by the UN Country Team in China have ranged from contributing to the reform of the legal framework for food safety, to the promotion of good practices in increasing food safety and nutrition in schools, hospitals, and increasing the quality standards of food producing industries. (for more details - watch multimedia presentation “Eat Well, Grow Well")
The activities implemented by the UNESCO Office Beijing’s Education Sector focused on training more than two hundred education officials, school principals and teachers to improve their knowledge of nutrition and food education and their ability to work in this area. Furthermore, a set of teaching materials for students in grades one to nine has been developed and piloted in 34 primary and secondary schools, this complements the health education curriculum developed by the Ministry of Education.
The UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Sector has joined hands with women's organizations at national and local level to raise awareness on the new "Food Safety Law," and to popularize knowledge about food safety and child nutrition. The UNESCO’s Communication and Information Sector has worked with the Training Center of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and the local radio-television stations to build the capacity of over one hundred local journalists on professional reporting skills in food safety and food security issues, as well as to develop the training handbook “Professional Reporting on Food Safety and Child Nutrition Issues in China” (download it here).
Some of the best-practices piloted at local level in the counties during the overall project implementation have been upscaled at provincial and national level, while a set of policy recommendations (summarized in the policy-brief available here) was officially presented by the UN country team to national and local governmental partners at the Project’s wrap-up event on 11 April 2013.
During this final event, the Vice Minister of Health and Family Planning Mr. Chen Xiaohong said that the Chinese authorities are conscious that food safety and security are serious challenges, and that they welcome international cooperation and technical assistance to support policies in this field.While the UN Resident Coordinator in China, Ms. Renata Dessalien, stressed that “Food security and safety are complex sustainable development issues,” she explained that these are not only directly linked with the health and wellbeing of all individuals, but they also relate to issues such as environment, industry, employment, water and land resources. “Resolving food safety and security –she concluded- it is an absolutely essential element of sustainable development, and it requires cross-ministerial, cross-thematic collaboration.”
At the closing event the head of the Project’s evaluation team, Prof. Chen Jie, presented the results of the evaluation which in all project components is ranging from “good” to “excellent.” To know more from the voice of some of the beneficiaries, read the reportage “Travelling to the Huize and Wuding Counties” here.