Choki Wangmo 

The World Food Day, themed “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together. Our Actions are our Future” was observed in Thimphu yesterday. It comes after a week since the World Food Programme (WFP) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The theme for this year is a call for national solidarity to grow local, seasonal, nutritious foods in a sustainable manner to help the Bhutanese population, especially the most vulnerable amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The theme reflects the government’s efforts to make food systems more resilient so that they can withstand the shocks from increasing price volatility, climate change and supply chain disruptions,” a press release from the agriculture ministry stated.

“This year’s theme is an apt reminder of how food, nutrition and agriculture are critical in building a nation that is healthy, resilient and self-reliant,” the head of WFP Bhutan, Svante Helms said.

“We also believe this year’s theme is very timely given that the ongoing pandemic has further underscored the importance of food, nutrition and health,” he said.

Food security is central to a sustainable, equitable and secured future for Bhutan. With profound changes in the way food is grown, processed, distributed and consumed, the day is a time for all stakeholders to come together for collective efforts to produce and consume more local, seasonal and nutritious foods sustainably, he added.

Agriculture director, Kinlay Tshering said that the department would make efforts towards growing more foods, to mitigate world hunger through a productive, profitable, prestigious, and professional agriculture sector.

Since 1974, WFP started with school feeding programme and has today assisted the country in agriculture, nutrition and disaster risk management.

The organisation supported agriculture value chain – demand creation; production; post-harvest management; marketing; knowledge management and cost-efficiency.

Some of the activities related to nutrition include assistance to rice fortification, upgrade of school feeding infrastructure, school nutrition education and dietary behaviour change for school children and communities.

The organisation also supports the government’s focus on digitisation and innovation.

One of the initiatives – PLUS school menus— an online software calculates the most nutritious school feeding menu, at the lowest cost with the highest proportion of food from Bhutan – was selected for the Global Best Practice Award at the World Expo Dubai 2020.

WFP estimates that the number of acutely food insecure people globally could increase by an additional 270 million by the end of 2020.

The winners of the school agriculture programme and the food contest were also announced and awarded cash prizes.

Officials from the agriculture ministry, health and education ministry, FAO, WFP among others attended the event while 60 other members from the dzongkhags attended the programme virtually.