The power of food

During the Congress of Future held in Chile in January 2018, we had a conversation with Dr. Eve Crowley, FAO regional representative for Latin America and Caribbean as well as representative in Chile, about the importance of familiar agriculture and challenges for food availability in the next decades.
Isidora Sesnic

Isidora Sesnic

27, April 2018

The Science Communication Center at Universidad Autónoma visited Dr. Eve Crowley at her office in the context of her participation at the Congress of Future 2018. During this meeting Dr. Crowley talked about the historic links of women and the kitchen; diets for poor and rich people; and nourishment as an element of politic power.

Nourishment system is a concept relatively new. Not everyone understands what it is. It consists in all individuals, institutions and activities involved in processes from food production to elaboration, transport, commercialization and consumption” stated Dr. Crowley, highlighting the importance of having a good definition of this concept as well as adding value to its several spheres of application.

The challenge that Dr. Crowley proposes is to think on the future nourishment system by considering at least three aspects from the one we have at the moment. In one hand we have nutritional aspects, then the environmental side, and the institutional and politic aspects as well. Three big areas from where we can characterize our nourishment system and project it to the future.

ALIMENTACION_E_CROWLEY_250418_24How can we define our current nourishment system considering these three sides you mention?  In nutritional terms, around the world there is an increase in animal protein consumption as well as fast food consumption. It is important to notice that Chile is the second country in the region in terms of fast food sold per person, highly processed food, in the whole region. In relation to the environmental scenario, there is a reduction in the availability and quality of resources like water and soil. If we think that we use 370 times more water to produce one kilo of burgers or chocolates than tomato, undoubtedly, according to what we decide to eat, we can produce a significant impact on our environment.

In other hand, who is really the responsible of our nourishment system? If we think about health, we know the answer, as well as if we think in production terms. However, if we look the group of failures or transversal risks, there is no clear rules, so it is key to find a solution that comes from the Chilean State.


[SPANISH] We are currently in a situation where markets are more concentrated in few hands. Not only the ones that sale food (supermarkets) but also soil, water, seeds, chains of distribution and publicity. This is an international phenomenon but is quite big in Chile.

The gap among social classes in Chile is a big topic, how is this related to the nourishment system?

I am not quite sure whether this apply to everyone, but we do see that cheap and poor-quality food is available for poor people while good quality food is expensive. So, a bag of healthy food is affordable for the poorest population.

If we continue in this way, a tendency shows that we will have two different classes of nourishment. One for the poor people, where they are going to suffer more frequently from over-weigh, eating fast food but affordable. And in other hand, rich people that eat fresh food, locally produced and sustainable (and very expensive), or can pay for a bariatric surgery.

What is the link between the nourishment system and women?

Historically, women have played a very important role in preservation of the agricultural diversity and transference of knowledge. However, since women today represent an important part of the labor force, they are spending less time in cooking and shopping for food. This is not the fault of women, but it is the fault of families and society that have not adapted to maintain this important role related to food shopping, cooking and feeding.

[SPANISH] I would prefer to imagine a future where all family members cook together, almost like a spiritual social act, where everyone know how to cook. But today cooking is disappearing.

In deep...
The challenges for Chile

What advances has Chile reached in terms of nourishment?

Considering the history behind policies in Chile, the most important are those policies oriented to reduce obesity, which is quite positive although more can be done. For example, in relation to the food costs, when we compare fast food to healthy food.

In addition, in scientific terms, Chile is doing research with local products, like Maqui fruit, which has to be boosted and used as a way to improve.

According to your experience, what is the main challenge that Chile has in this topic?

To reinforce inclusive markets where producers and consumers converge. These short circuits have big potential. These circuits are innocuous, so do not consist in big areas but are originated in the territory, they benefit from the local cultural knowledge, where you decide to revitalize the local culinary culture and take advantage from unknown food.

In this moment Chile could establish the nourishment system as a center of its culture and society, it could be a source of national proud. Through this way, Chileans could celebrate this biological and territorial diversity, which is unique in the country.

Isidora Sesnic
Report: Isidora Sesnic
Pictures: Pablo Madariaga

27, April 2018