NCDs and SDG #2: Nourishing NCD Solutions Through Addressing Food Security




We cannot overcome the global burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) without first addressing food security – and we cannot address food insecurity without first correctly defining it. This is also underscored in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, specifically SDG # 2, which addresses food security, hunger, and nutrition. ‘Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life’ (FAO). Yes, people can be food insecure both in the presence and absence of hunger. An important point to consider when discussing NCDs.

Opportunities for co-benefits

Why focus on the relationship between food security and NCDs? Simple, food insecurity is a key risk factor for the development of NCDs, and multiple opportunities for co-benefits exist when it comes to solving these issues. Undernourished mothers and children predispose to obesity in adulthood, whilst excess consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-deficient, highly processed products can equally predispose to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Both of which are inextricably linked to food and nutrition accessibility, availability, and affordability – modifiable factors. 


This is where it gets interesting. The modern, industrial food system - which has catalysed a rapid departure from locally-sourced, plant-based foods to the 40,000 products you can now purchase in a local supermarket - promotes food and nutrition insecurity which in turn promotes the development of NCDs. For many, unhealthy food is now cheaper and more accessible that health-promoting fresh fruit and vegetables. So, how can we transform this dysfunctional food system? Make it NCD-free of course. If we ensure that each component of the food system, which includes food production, processing, packaging, distribution, storage, consumption, and waste, is redesigned with the intention of reducing its impact on NCDs, then we can simultaneously reduce food insecurity and the burden of chronic diseases. That’s a HUGE win for global health. NCDs are the leading cause of death globally (>70%), and dietary risks alone are the leading risk factor for global morbidity and mortality (>20%).


Increasing NCD appetite

Food is also a great way to get people engaged with notoriously ‘unsexy’ NCDs. In 2016, NCDFREE did just that. Through #feastofideas, we provided people with an opportunity to use food to solve our biggest health challenges by hosting a meal with friends and family to discuss food, NCDs, and our future. Over 31 days in 56 countries, 3000 diners set the table for change and served up thousands of solutions. What did the NCDFREE team learn through #feastofideas? That food truly is the universal language that brings us together in good times and bad, and it’s the ultimate agent of debate…and change. Many of the solutions submitted had a common theme: helping to create a system than favours the sale and consumption of healthy products, and protects children from unhealthy influences – in turn creating a food secure and just system for all:


Serving up change

Why should individuals care? Because we CAN do something about it, and in this current political climate we find ourselves in, we NEED to do something about it. Bottom-up change has never been so important. Through #feastofideas, diners identified a list of actions they can take today: 


The most important of course, is to step up and demand change. We’re in The United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition. Let’s nourish this unpreceded opportunity to rewrite the global menu of solutions for food security and NCDs. Let’s set the table for change.



Jessica Renzella

NCDFREE Global Campaign Coordinator


Tw: @jessicanne_r 



NCDFREE is a global social movement that aims for a world free from preventable NCDs. We believe that chronic diseases pose an enormous threat to the future of humanity, and that overcoming this challenge is the fight of our generation. We believe that the key to winning this battle lies in creative new ways of thinking about global health. With your help, and through the power of food, we will win this fight.



Jessica Renzella

About Jessica Renzella

PhD Student in Population Health @UniofOxford | Strategic Development @NCDFREE | Editor @PLOSblogs | MPH @unimelb Grad | Our Future Through #Cities & #Food

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NCDs and SDG #2: Nourishing NCD Solutions Through Addressing Food Security
NCDs and SDG #2: Nourishing NCD Solutions Through Addressing Food Security