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World Food Prize winners stress global nutrition needs

Tri-State Neighbor

11-02-18

DES MOINES - Hunger isn't just about starvation. Solving it is not just about calories. And not everyone suffers the same. Those are some of the lessons offered by this year's recipients of the World Food Prize, David Nabarro and Lawrence Haddad.

The two British men, one a physician and the other an economist, won the award primarily for their work emphasizing child nutrition. They spoke at events in Des Moines Oct. 16-19 as part of the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue.

In looking at those issues, Nabarro and Haddad said they quickly realized several things. One is that it is especially important to get proper nutrition to expectant mothers and young women who may soon become mothers. It is also important to get nutrition to infants and toddlers under the age of three. And it is important to not only get calories to those individuals but to get a balanced and nutritional diet.

By not addressing those items, the world ends up with far too many people whose mental and physical development has been hampered, they said.

"In short, brains do not grow as they should," said Nabarro, who began his career as a doctor.

The two men say that officials in the United States and other developed nations have done a good job of trying to get calories to starving people, but too often poor people around the world are surviving on staples such as porridge. That will keep them alive, but they need fruits and vegetables to be able to grow and to develop.

To make sure they get those nutrients is in the best interest of the rest of us, Haddad added, because it leads to healthier and better physically and mentally adjusted adults.

And he said child nutrition is not only an issue in the third world. There are many people in wealthy countries who are not getting enough vitamins and minerals in their diets.

Nutrition and hunger programs need to take that fact into consideration. And foreign agricultural aid needs to consider the production of healthy food, as well as of staple crops, Nabarro and Haddad said.

There is reason for concern today, Haddad said. Recent studies indicate that progress in some areas of hunger have stalled.

"It is really concerning," he said. War, climate change and logistical issues are all important factors.

The World Food Prize was started in 1986 by Dr. Norman Borlaug, an Iowa native who went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in crop development as leader of what became known as the "green revolution." Based in Des Moines, it honors individuals who have done work to combat world hunger.

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