World Food Day marked across Italy

"Hunger in the world undoubtedly remains a major challenge," Houngbo said. "If we are to grow food to nourish the population and sustain our planet, we will need to work together to increase the investments where they are needed most."

World Food Day was marked across Italy with both colorful and serious events plus tributes to the Rome-based United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which marked the 75th founding anniversary the same day.

World Food Day, which was designated in 1979, is an international celebration. But it takes on special importance in Italy, which hosts three United Nations (UN) food-related agencies.

To celebrate the day, the city of Milan erected a sculpture made of bread, featuring loaves from all 20 Italian regions.

Food was the subject of a series of documentaries aired by state broadcaster RAI, while two large supermarket chains launched a food collection drive to help feed the country’s poorest. The Barilla Foundation, a non-profit group founded by Italy’s leading pasta maker, used the day to launch a new initiative promoting sustainable diets.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte vowed Italy would make anti-hunger and sustainable food initiatives top priorities when it takes over the presidency of the Group of 20 (G20) next year.

Conte also congratulated the FAO on its big anniversary, saying Italy was “proud” to host the organization and that it would continue to work together with FAO to tackle difficult problems related to food, hunger, and other issues.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu put FAO’s role into a historical context.

“History reminds and enlightens us,” said Qu, adding “More importantly, history demands that we keep up with the times, rethink our approaches, and redouble our efforts to end hunger and poverty once and for all.”

“FAO is ready to make history, with your support, solidarity, and active engagement,” said Qu.

Qu, a former vice-minister of China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, took up office as the Director-General of the FAO on Aug. 1, 2019.

FAO hosted an online symposium to mark both World Food Day and its anniversary, which was attended by dignitaries including Italian President Sergio Mattarella, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and the heads of the other main UN agencies in Rome.

“We firmly believe that basic human rights include the right to food,” President Mattarella said during the event, praising the work of the FAO and the other Rome-based agencies.

One of those agencies, the UN World Food Program (WFP), earned headlines across the world last week when it was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. On Friday, WFP Executive Director David Beasley used World Food Day to highlight the problem of food waste.

“We produce enough food to feed over 7 billion people, and yet 690 million go to bed hungry each night,” Beasley said.

Gilbert Houngbo, the president of the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), the third UN agency based in Rome, called at the forum for more international cooperation to fight the problems of hunger.

“Hunger in the world undoubtedly remains a major challenge,” Houngbo said. “If we are to grow food to nourish the population and sustain our planet, we will need to work together to increase the investments where they are needed most.”