Water in Focus at World Food Day Event in Budapest


Photo by Food Bank/Istvan Ruzsa

Major food security challenges caused by unsustainable water management were presented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Hungarian Food Bank Association, and the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture on World Food Day in Budapest.

Olympic aquatic athletes also joined the water-themed event, which featured water-friendly dishes of the future and the World Food Day convoy – a line of 21 trucks carrying 50 tonnes of food donations for needy families.

Today, 2.4 billion people live in water-stressed countries, and this number is expected to rise sharply in the coming years. Droughts, lack of precipitation, and rising temperatures are already taking a toll on Europe, according to a press release by FAO.

Everyone can make a difference by choosing local, seasonal, and fresh foods, wasting less of it – even by reducing food waste – and finding safe ways to reuse it while preventing water pollution, the organization says.

“Water is a precious natural resource, just like the air we breathe. It is essential for our nurture and agricultural production, which provides life and livelihoods for billions of people around the world,” said Nabil Gangi, Officer-in-Charge for the FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia. “Investment in innovative, efficient water management practices is vital. From governments to individuals, all sectors and spheres need to participate in the change to build together a water-saving and resilient world.”

On World Food Day, a variety of events organized by FAO in more than 150 countries across the world drew attention to the challenges of food security and sustainable water management.

“World Food Day provides us an opportunity to divert our attention to the greatest challenges of our times,” said Anikó Juhász, Deputy State Secretary of the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture. “In Europe and Central Asia, these include water shortages, climate change, soil erosion, loss of soil microbial diversity, as well as the protection of agricultural land and land tenure issues. To ensure the availability of water and food security, our goal is to make the agriculture sector more sustainable and resilient to weather extremes.”

Due to climate change and growing water shortages, drought-resistant plants such as millets, sorghum, chickpeas, lentils and sea buckthorn may dominate food production in the region and consequently in our diets, FAO says. These neglected plants are not only drought-resistant and nutritious but also have the potential to increase the efficiency of agricultural production. To promote their inherent value, the United Nations has declared 2023 the International Year of Millets, highlighting its high fiber content and nutritional value and the fact that it is free of both gluten and lactose.

This year, for the eighteenth time, a donation convoy was launched from the heart of Budapest – Hősök tere – towards the warehouse of the Food Bank Association. The convoy of 21 trucks and lorries transported 50,000 kg of food with a long shelf life, including canned food, margarine, pasta, rice, instant soup, flour, and soft drinks. In the coming days, 13,000 food packages worth HUF 75 million in total will be prepared for needy Hungarian families.

“Unfortunately, food waste and water scarcity are phenomena that go hand in hand, which can further increase the difficulties of the needy worldwide,” said Balázs Cseh, the Hungarian Food Bank Association’s president. “When we throw away food, we also waste the water used to produce it, and the work of farmers loses its meaning. The Hungarian Food Bank Association works to track down surplus food at food producers, traders, and restaurants, including products close to their expiration date or products with faulty packaging. Every year, we can save 9 million kilos of food from going to waste.”

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