Nutrition and the Sustainable Development Goals: The Driving Force for Change

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Nutrition and the Sustainable Development Goals: The Driving Force for Change

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to “leave no one and no ecosystem behind” and are universal and interconnected.

Here at Canadian Feed The Children, we know that nutrition is the driving force behind transformative change. It goes beyond addressing SDG 2: Zero Hunger, which aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. Nutrition is the cornerstone to breaking the cycle of poverty (SDG 1: No Poverty) and unleashing the potential of children, youth, and communities across the entire spectrum of the 17 Global Goals. In this blog, we explore how food and nutrition are the bedrock for success in sustainable development and why we believe food always comes first.

a colourful graphic of the global goals with cartoon representations

Good Health & Wellbeing (SDG 3)
Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Nutrition is a key pillar of good health and well-being. Malnutrition can take on many forms including undernutrition, overnutrition (obesity), and micronutrient deficiencies. Proper nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood is critical for maternal health and the healthy development of children, preventing stunting and wasting.

Nutrition is also key to strengthening immune systems. Adequate nutrition is scientifically proven to support the prevention and management of communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, as well as non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular conditions.

A healthy, balanced diet not only nourishes the body but also the mind. Nutrition is key to supporting cognitive function and sustaining emotional well-being, contributing to overall mental resilience and vitality.

Education (SDG 4)
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

a group of children at a desk with classwork in front of themMalnutrition, particularly in early childhood, can impair cognitive development and have long-term consequences. Children facing nutritional deficiencies are more likely to experience health issues, including frequent illnesses and lack of energy, which can impact their school attendance and academic performance. When children experience hunger in the classroom, they can face difficulties concentrating on their lessons, poor physical health, and disrupted behaviour and mood.

Malnutrition also disproportionately affects girls, which creates an additional barrier to education.

When a child experiences malnutrition, their entire educational journey is stifled, so efforts to address food insecurity in turn promote nutrition, and vice versa. Recognizing and addressing the nutritional needs of students is integral to ensuring equitable access to quality education.

Gender Equality (SDG 5)
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

a woman and her daughter stand in their gardenFor women and girls to reach their full potential, food needs to come first.

Nutrition requirements vary throughout a woman’s life, particularly during adolescence and pregnancy. Yet in many regions, these go unmet. Due to gender disparities, women and girls are more susceptible to malnutrition. By addressing the unique challenges they face, we can ensure women and girls are healthier and better positioned to actively participate in decision-making and contribute to their communities.

Women and girls tend to face more barriers to education. As a result, they have fewer opportunities to learn about nutrition, which impacts their ability to make informed healthy choices for themselves and their families.

Early marriage and pregnancy is a risk for girls in school that can result in malnutrition for both the mother and child, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. That’s why school meals and nutrition programs are critical.

Women make up a significant portion of the agricultural workforce. In Ghana, for example, women make up 70% of the workforce and contribute to the production of 70% of crops. Providing knowledge, training, and tools can allow women to improve their farming practices, lifting themselves, their families, and their communities.

Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6)
Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

a woman stands with water basins and a tapClean water is fundamental for proper nutrition as it plays a crucial role in food production, preparation, and hygiene. Inadequate access to clean water can lead to waterborne diseases and contamination of food.

A lack of safe, clean water creates a hospitable environment for diseases and parasites to fester, leading to malnutrition in children, which is especially harmful to children who are already experiencing hunger.

Additionally, water scarcity can impact agricultural productivity, affecting the availability and quality of food resources. We have seen this in the regions in which we work including Bolivia and the Horn of Africa, where droughts have become increasingly prevalent, impacting growing seasons, agricultural output, and family incomes.

Climate Action (SDG 13)
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

a woman stands in her garden holding a leafy crop in her handClimate change disrupts the very foundation of food security. Extreme weather, unpredictable patterns in rainfall, and rising temperatures disrupt agricultural production. This leads to reduced crop yields which ultimately affects the quality, quantity, and diversity of food available.

Climate change not only shortens growing seasons to limit harvests, it causes shifts in agricultural practices and the cultivation of different crops. These shifts may affect the types of foods available in different regions, potentially influencing dietary patterns and nutritional outcomes.

In addition, climate change can adversely affect livelihoods, particularly in communities that depend on agriculture. For example, over 80% of the Ugandan population depends on rain-fed agriculture. Changes in weather patterns and climate-related disasters can lead to crop failures and economic losses, affecting people's ability to access and afford nutritious foods.

Partnerships (SDG 17)
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

a boy poses as he climbs a tree in the bushAddressing big challenges like hunger, poverty, inequality, and climate change is only possible if we work together. Effective partnerships are crucial to building sustainable agricultural systems, ensuring food security, and promoting economic growth.

CFTC collaborates with local partners around the world to bring community-led programming to life and ensure that communities have control over the programs that make sense for their unique needs. In our collective pursuit of sustainable solutions, food security takes center stage. With our partners, we aim to address the root causes of hunger and poverty.

Click here to see our partners around the world who are implementing life-changing programming.

Ways to support the Global Goals 

Here are some actions you can take right now to help achieve the Global Goals:

  1. Visit the Global Goals website to get to know each goal. Click the ones that inspire you most to learn more.

  2. Make a donation to help organizations like Canadian Feed The Children achieve the goals in Canada and around the world. 

  3. Share this webpage with your family and friends to educate on the Sustainable Development Goals, and how youths worldwide are helping to advance the goals. 

  4. Learn more about Canada’s work to Go For The Goals during International Development Week. Follow the hashtags #GoForTheGoals on social media to learn more.