UNICEF-supported campaign promotes healthier food environments in Asia-Pacific

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Bangkok, March 2 (IANS) Youth and celebrities from eight countries, including China, took part in a UNICEF-supported campaign in Bangkok this week, to promote the need for healthier food environments in the Asia-Pacific.

The “Fix My Food” campaign is a two-day co-creation workshop brainstorming ideas and identifying potential partners to assist in the campaign’s rollout in their respective countries, Xinhua news agency reported.

Traditional healthy fresh food diets are being replaced by highly processed and unhealthy junk food and drinks, “resulting in poor diets that have a devastating impact on the health and well-being of children in the region,” Roland Kupka, regional nutrition adviser for UNICEF East Asia and Pacific office, told Xinhua on Monday.

More than one in three adolescents in the region drink at least one sugary drink a day, while more than half consume fast food once or more a week, and less than half are eating enough fruit and vegetables every day, according to UNICEF.

UNICEF has been working closely with governments and partners to introduce policies and legislation to curb the increase of the sale and the marketing of unhealthy food and drink in the region.

China, which has friendly cooperation with UNICEF, is taking an active role in children and food issues, said Lely Djuhari, Chief of Communication and Advocacy of UNICEF China.

“We are aware that progress has been made in the realisation of children’s rights in China, and much work remains to be done to improve children’s nutrition.”

With youth leading the campaign and support from celebrities and influencers, UNICEF hopes to create awareness about the impact of the changing food environment on 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.

“Upon coming home, I hope to work with my peers and youth groups in China,” said Chen Feipeng, a 24-year-old postgraduate student, who was recommended by the All China Youth Federation to attend the workshop.

“Through Hope Kitchen (a government nutrition program), which will contribute to improved access to affordable, available, well-packaged, and well-marketed healthy food options that everyone wants to buy,” he added.

This initiative will be implemented in the eight participating countries, China, Cambodia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Mongolia, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and Vietnam, and supported by UNICEF country offices and partners as part of UNICEF’s work to mobilise and empower young people to take action.

“Children’s diets influence both their physical and mental health, and all sectors of the society need to collectively build a child-friendly food environment, and promote a sustainable food system,” said Meng Qianshan, a nutrition educator from Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

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