On December 7th, Nutrition for Growth kicked off their 2021 Tokyo summit and highlighted issues with malnutrition and access to nutrient-dense food. Below is a summary of the summit and Canada’s involvement. 

What is Nutrition for Growth? Nutrition for Growth (abbreviated as N4G) is a global movement to end malnutrition and food insecurity, with a focus on making sure that nutrient-dense food is readily available for everyone. Currently, less than one percent of global foreign aid is spent on nutrition, but malnutrition is the underlying cause of nearly half of all child deaths under the age of five. On December 7th, N4G held a summit in Tokyo that brought together 45 countries that pledged over $27 billion USD to address global malnutrition and hunger, with a focus on developing policies and nutrition programs for children in countries where malnutrition levels are high.

Canada’s Involvement in N4G
In December of 2020, in partnership with the government of Bangladesh, Canada launched the “N4G Year of Action” in which Canada pledged to lead nutrition efforts for the world’s marginalized communities, with a focus on women and children. Policies to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were also addressed, as the onset of the pandemic was expected to double the number of people suffering from acute hunger globally by the end of 2021. At the 2021 summit, Canada pledged to invest in the integration of nutrition with other essential services, as well as to address the underlying causes of malnutrition, such as food insecurity, inadequate health services, safe water, and sanitation. A financial contribution of $195 million was announced, and will be used to fund eleven projects that will be executed by Canada and international partners. 

A Focus on Healthy Food
A focus of the summit was increasing access to not only food in general, but specifically nutrient-dense food. According to UNICEF, over 45.5 million children globally are “wasted”, which refers to a child whose weight is too light given their height. During the summit, investors called on the 25 largest food and beverage companies to prioritize healthy packaged food, as well as commit to three essential actions:

  • Report annually on the percentage of their sales generated by healthy food products
  • Report annually on the share healthy food products they have in their overall product mix
  • Use an independently developed system to define what can be classified as a “healthy food product” 

A point highlighted by the summit is that poor-quality diets not only have a negative societal impact, but also a negative economic impact; the costs associated with poor nutrition are estimated by the Access to Nutrition Initiative to total over $3.5 trillion dollars annually.