Our Perspectives

A recipe for sustainable development


Roca brothers visit marketThe Roca Brothers have a walk at the food market in New York to look at the local food products. Photo: Freya Morales/UNDP

Food has always been a central part of our lives: the food in our parents’ restaurant where we grew up; food as an element of creativity, emotion, dialogue and discovery in our work. Food is an important part of our heart and soul.

Over the years, we realized that how people experience food, cook, and preserve culinary traditions have a direct impact on the fundamental areas of life. What we eat affects our health, our economy, and our planet.

When we learned about the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we wanted to be a part of this ambitious undertaking. Viewing food from the three perspectives of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental – helps us understand many of the challenges we have encountered in our culinary journey around the world.

So we are excited to embark on a new journey together with the UNDP and the Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG Fund).

We are highly concerned about the loss of food biodiversity in the world, the abandonment of indigenous cultures, and forgotten culinary traditions, all of which can lead to poverty and exclusion. We are concerned that, increasingly, more communities cannot choose what food to grow and how to prepare it, and they depend on prices that fluctuate excessively. It is heartbreaking and mindboggling that in some countries, particularly in Africa, more than half of food is wasted while at the same time 800 million people across the world, including in those very countries, go hungry.

The food industry, from production to distribution to consumption, should not be a threat to sustainability, but rather a source of sustainable development. Agriculture is the main source of employment in much of the world. There are traditional food conservation techniques, which are accessible, inexpensive and simple, that can substantially reduce food waste.

When we educate people, especially youth, on the impact that food and its production has on their health, environment and the economy, they start to care about where their food comes from.  

That’s why we want to do our part, together with UNDP and its partners, by conducting culinary trainings, promoting environmental awareness, and, above all, learning from and sharing sustainable practices throughout the world.

We want to meet the young people of Vanuatu and Fiji who are discovering that organic agriculture can be a source of employment and food security in places where most food is imported and overly expensive. We want to share experiences with Nigerian and Ethiopian farmers to improve food conservation and promote their culinary traditions. We want to discover how the Andean grains in Cauca, one of the areas most affected by the armed conflict in Colombia, can become drivers of economic growth and peace. We want to work with the education system in Sri Lanka that is setting up a program to improve food education across the country, so that all young people may know how to cook healthy.

We are excited to work with the various United Nations agencies, governments, local organizations and the private sector and hope that what we have learned in our culinary journey can contribute to the work already being carried out in 21 countries by the SDG Fund in areas of food access, nutrition and job creation.

We cannot leave anyone without access to food. Healthy, nutritious food contributes to creating prosperity. We must secure a food chain that is environmentally sustainable, socially just and economically inclusive and that ensures access to food for all.

We look forward to this important journey in our new role outside of the restaurant and with a larger vision designed to weave our traditional knowledge with all that is vital to ensuring the health of future generations.  

A version of this blog post was originally published in the Huffington Post.

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