World Food Day celebration on 16 October 2019 calls for “Healthy Diets for a #ZEROHUNGER World” as its theme. This theme is in line with the global agenda of addressing the triple burden of malnutrion (i.e., undernutrition, overnutrition , and micronutrient deficiency) which is caused by the quantity and quality of the diet that people consume. This theme also reinforces RECFON’s long-term advocacy as SEAMEO’s specialist centre in food and nutrition since 2011.
The Centre believes that consuming a healthy diet should not be a short-term approach, but it should be a long term effort, sustainable, affordable and accessible to everyone. Optimizing the consumption of locally available foods in creating healthy and sustainable diets is thus essential. Since 2016, SEAMEO RECFON has been working on diet optimization using linear programming (LP) approach to develop population-specific food-based recommendations toward promoting the optimal use of local nutrient-dense foods particularly for vulnerable groups such as mothers, infants and young children.
Local nutrient-dense foods have potentials to improve nutrient inadequacy which is one of the contributing factors to malnutrition. SEAMEO RECFON’s recent studies show promising results on the use of locally available and affordable nutrient-dense foods to address stunting in Indonesia. In a community intervention for stunting prevention among under-two children in Sambas West Kalimantan, optimized complementary feeding recommendations (CFR) using local nutrient-dense food has shown positive benefits in improving dietary diversity score and nutrient intakes. The increased intake of animal source foods was found to have positive effect in reducing anemia and stunting among the under-two children.
The nutrition benefit of local nutrient-dense foods should also be promoted as intervention for children with moderately acute malnutrition (MAM). WHO recommends the use of local foods in dietary management of MAM and manufactured foods should be used only when there is food shortage or nutrient gaps that cannot be filled through local foods. However, SEAMEO RECFON’s study found that more than two-thirds of energy consumed by children with MAM comes from manufactured instead of local foods, while LP analysis suggests that one-third to half of the current prescription would be sufficient to fill the gap when accompanied with optimized CFRs.
SEAMEO RECFON’s LP study in 10 stunting prioritized districts in Indonesia showed that different dietary patterns of the community led to different problem nutrients lacking in their diet. The good news is in most of these areas, local nutrient-dense food sources abound which can fill nutrient gaps and therefore should be promoted in local specific food-based recommendations. The use of local nutrient dense food is crucial in creating sustainable, affordable and accessible healthy diet. Considering that Indonesia is a biodiversity-rich country, it is worth maximizing the use of local nutrient-dense foods in improving the nutritional problems that the country currently faces as well as contributing to achieve the SDGs Goal 2 of Zero Hunger.
SEAMEO RECFON would always be ready to lend a hand in advocating “Healthy Diets for a #ZEROHUNGER World”.