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Getting Energized About Food Security

By: Natalie Wu

Disclaimer: The views are those of the author's alone and do not represent the views of UNA-Canada.

Hello everyone! My name is Natalie, and I’m a Junior Professional Consultant (JPC) with UNA-Canada. I’m currently working remotely from Montreal for the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Climate and Disaster Risk Reduction Programme Unit (PRO-C) of the Programme and Policy Division based in Rome, Italy. Within the PRO-C unit, I am a part of the Energy for Food Security team.

Natalie works remotely from Montreal with the Energy for Food Security Team at WFP’s HQ in Rome

Before starting this internship, I got my BSc in Human Nutrition at McGill University and was completing my MSc. in Bioresource Engineering. My master’s thesis was focused on evaluating the nutritional quality and the carbon footprint of a novel sustainable diet compared to common dietary patterns found in Canada. Completing my carbon footprint analysis was the first time I really considered the link between energy access and food security/food systems. However, at that time I only looked at energy from a climate change point of view. My placement in WFP has really broadened my understanding of what access to energy really means.

SDG 7 aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. Energy access is important as it is an engine of transformative socioeconomic opportunities that touches on all aspects of sustainable development. It is also a fundamental enabler to achieving food security and zero hunger as well as all the other SDGs. Energy access is essential for every stage of the food system as it impacts food production, processing, transportation, communication, preservation, and consumption. Therefore, much of WFP’s work is to examine how energy access can affect the ability of food systems to function effectively, safely, and sustainably.

SDG 7 underpins all the SDGs

Much of my work as a JPC has been focused on modern cooking as roughly 2.6 billion people lack access to clean cooking solutions which has dramatic consequences on public health, the environment, and economic development. Indoor air pollution from the use of biomass (firewood and charcoal) as cooking fuel can cause respiratory diseases as well as contribute to environmental degradation through deforestation and pollution. Collecting these fuels are a burden to women and girls as they must travel long distances and can prolong conflict between communities competing over wood fuel resources. As well, without sufficient quantities of these fuels, people are forced to barter food for fuel, undercook meals, or skip meals which all have consequences on their nutrition.

Within my work on modern cooking, I have been focusing on the impacts of clean cooking appliances on nutrition. Schools are large contributors to inefficient cooking due to the high volumes of meals they must prepare and most food distributed by WFP to these schools requires cooking before it can be consumed. Therefore, I have been working on a research proposal to evaluate the impacts of using clean cooking appliances on nutrition in schools. As well, I have been working on a brochure outlining the importance of refrigeration and it’s impacts on nutrition. Refrigeration helps maintain the nutritional value of food as well as extend the shelf life of food therefore reducing food losses. It also inhibits the growth of microorganisms that can cause food to spoil and lead to adverse health effects.

This experience has been incredibly transformative, enjoyable, and informative. It has been wonderful working with the Energy for Food Security Team as they have been very supportive of me through this whole process, and I have learned so much from each one of them. I’m excited to take the knowledge and skills I have acquired through this amazing experience into the next steps of my career.


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