Young People Demand Healthier Food Environments in East Asia and Pacific
Young people co-create and launch a campaign to support UNICEF’s ‘Fix My Food’ initiative for healthier food environments for children in the region. The food systems in East Asia and the Pacific, known for its diverse and vibrant food culture is changing rapidly. Traditional healthy fresh food diets are being replaced by an increasing consumption of highly processed ‘junk’ food and drink full of sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats.
Children across the region, are growing up in food environments that promote the sale and consumption of these ‘junk’ foods and drinks, rather than healthier alternatives. As a result, more than one in three adolescents are drinking at least one sugary drink a day; more than half consume a fast-food once or more a week; and less than half, are eating enough fruit and vegetables every day.
“Today, children and young people are surrounded by junk-food marketing wherever they go: online, on their way to school, college or university, on television, and even while standing in the checkout-line of the grocery store. The result is that too many children in East Asia and the Pacific have poor, unhealthy diets that are having a devastating impact on their health and well-being. It is about time that we change this.” shared Ms. Debora Comini, Regional Director, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific.
UNICEF has been working closely with governments and partners to introduce policies and legislation to curb the increase in marketing of unhealthy food and drink, such as bans on advertising and sale of unhealthy foods in and around schools, clear front-of-pack nutrition labelling, and taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages amongst others.
To further promote the need for healthier food environments, UNICEF is supporting the “Fix My Food” campaign led by young people to raise awareness of the need to create healthier food environments in China, Cambodia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Mongolia, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam.
Young people, together with celebrities and influencers from these eight countries were part of a two-day co-creation “Fix My Food” workshop in Bangkok – brainstorming ideas and identifying potential partners to help roll out the campaign in their respective countries.
Chef Nak, Ms. Ros Rotanak, Cambodia’s first female celebrity chef, and Miss World Vietnam 2019, Ms. Luong Thuy Linh were also part of the co-creation workshop and launch event.
Sharing her thoughts, Chef Nak said “I strongly believe in preserving, developing and promoting traditional Khmer cuisine as one of the world’s most remarkable culinary traditions. Food is much more than just what we eat. It is an essential part of our culture, our families and our communities. I am happy to support these young champions, to preserve, protect and ensure that our food environment is equally accessible to and benefits all.”
“I strongly believe in healthy eating and healthy lifestyles and have joined this campaign with the hope that together we will be able to change our failing food system. We need to ensure that people, especially children and young people, have the opportunity and the right to make healthy food choices, wherever they are, at home, in and around schools, and in their communities,” stated Ms. Linh, Miss World Vietnam 2019.
With the young people leading the “Fix My Food” campaign and support from celebrities and influencers, UNICEF hopes to create awareness on the impact of the changing food environment in the lives of girls and boys and the urgent need for governments, the private sector and civil society to take collective action to build a healthier food environment across the region.
Speaking at the event, 24-year-old Mr. Ricardo Valente, from Timor-Leste said “This campaign is unique, it is designed and led by us and will be implemented by each of us, back in our own countries. We are excited about being part of this movement to make the food environment healthier and more accessible for every child and every young person in East Asia and the Pacific.”
As part of UNICEF’s work to mobilize and empower young people to take action, this initiative will be implemented in the eight participating countries and will be supported by UNICEF country offices and partners.