Young people together with celebrities and influencers from eight countries joined a “Fix My Food” workshop in Bangkok, brainstorming ideas and identifying potential partners to help roll out the campaign in their respective countries.
Youths and influencers lead the movement
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.
Cambodia’s first female celebrity chef, Ros Rotanak, or Chef Nak, and Miss World Vietnam 2019, Ms. Luong Thuy Linh, were also part of the co-creation workshop and launch event. Chef Nak said, “Food is much more than just what we eat” and that she believes in preserving, developing and promoting traditional Khmer cuisine.
Linh explained that she joined the campaign with the hope of changing what she called “our failing food system,” adding that children and young people must have the opportunity and the right to make healthy food choices at home, in and around schools, and in their communities.
Speaking at the event, 24-year-old Ricardo Valente from Timor-Leste appreciated the opportunity to make the food environment healthier and more accessible to children in Asia and the Pacific. He 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.”
Legislating nutrition in Thailand
UNICEF Regional Nutrition Adviser for East Asia and Pacific Roland Kupka joined a panel of workshop participants at the press conference. He noted that Thailand has been a regional pioneer in nutrition policy making.
“Every child has the right to adequate health and nutrition, and it’s the government’s responsibility to safeguard their rights. What the government of Thailand has been able to do is to implement effective policies to that end. For instance, Thailand was one of the first countries in the region to specifically tax unhealthy food products, such as sugary beverages. Thailand is also one of the forerunners in the region with regard to implementing policies to limit the marketing of unhealthy foods to children,” said Kupka.
Following this year’s general election, Kupka hopes the incoming administration will build on the sugar tax to unleash the full potential of nutrition policymaking to limit the marketing of unhealthy foods to children and implement more effective food labeling.
“I hope that the new administration will recognize that the full potential of policies will only be unleashed if we’re able to implement them together. So therefore, building on the sugar tax, I very much hope that the currently debated policy on limiting the marketing of harmful foods to children will be implemented with full force,” he added.
Thai businesses and schools step up
Suthasiny Sudprasert, co-founder and co-CEO of Thai sustainable food startup Happy Grocers, served as master of ceremonies for the workshop. She emphasized the responsibility borne by businesses in fostering a healthy food system.
“I believe that, as a business,” she stated, “it is our responsibility to be able to be transparent with our consumers […] in our labels, in our packaging, in the way we do communications.”
The two-day workshop was organized at The Food School Bangkok, Thailand’s first multinational culinary institute. According to School Director Laurent Casteret, culinary institutes should be “heavily involved” educating aspiring chefs in techniques for healthy cooking and reducing food waste.
“By sensitizing our students to the respectful use of ingredients, limiting waste, we focus on the best available products enhancing the healthy food environment,” he said. “The new generation of Thai chefs constantly look for healthier ingredients […] farm to table and organic products are also more and more chosen in their menus, which contribute to healthier cooking and sustainable food environments.”