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Fruits, vegetables crucial for healthy lives, sustainable world, says Guterres

The United Nations is marking 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables, spotlighting their vital role in human nutrition and food security, as well as urging efforts to improve sustainable production and reduction of waste.

Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General

In a message launching the campaign, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said despite tremendous benefits of fruits and vegetables, “we do not consume enough of them”.

“Fruits and vegetables are the cornerstone of a healthy and varied diet. They provide the human body with an abundance of nutrients, strengthen immune systems and help lower risks for a number of diseases,” he said.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the health and livelihoods of people across the world, we must come together to ensure that nutritious food, including fruits and vegetables, reaches the most vulnerable, leaving no one behind,” the UN chief added.

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A UN statement said Mr. Guterres also drew attention to the strong links between food systems and sustainable development. He called on all stakeholders to make food systems more inclusive, resilient and sustainable, including through adopting a more holistic approach to production and consumption that benefits human and environmental health.

“Let us use this International Year to rethink our relationship with how we produce and consume food, and to re-examine our food systems and commit to a healthier, more resilient and sustainable world where everyone can access and afford the diverse nutrition they need.”

Consuming sufficient, or even more than the recommended amounts, of fruit and vegetables has many health and nutrition benefits. Rich in fibres, vitamins and minerals, fruits and vegetables are crucial for growth and development of children, and help boost immune systems.

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They are also linked to lower risk of depression and anxiety, obesity and non-communicable diseases; promote gut health; and counter micronutrient deficiencies.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), people should eat a minimum of 400 grams of fruits and vegetables daily, as part of a healthy diet.

However, due to a number of factors, such as availability, affordability, or lack of knowledge and awareness, many people around the world consume less than that amount.

Against this background, Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), described the International Year as “a unique opportunity to raise global awareness”.

Speaking at a virtual launch event, on Tuesday, Decemeber 22, 2020, Mr. Qu also highlighted the role of digital technologies in reducing waste, improving nutrition and market opportunities.

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He outlined the challenges in improving production and agrifood chains, and called on countries to use the International Year to improve infrastructure, farming practices thereby supporting small scale farmers.

Alongside, the also emphasised the importance of fruits and vegetables as a good way for farmers to generate more income.

The International Year of Fruits and Vegetables 2021 was proclaimed by the General Assembly in December 2019 to raise awareness on the important role of fruits and vegetables in human nutrition, food security and health, as well as in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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