The below is a post recently written for my private blog, Celtic Celiac: A Modern Guide to Staying Sane Without Grain, which focuses on gluten free living, food allergies, and food advocacy issues. Many of my posts are related to social welfare issues within restricted dieting, or nutrition in general, and the below is a great example of how the two intersect, as well as a reminder that even the smallest of things can make a difference on a macro level.
Being gluten free in western society often introduces us to new grains which are foreign to many westerners but not so foreign to others around the world. For me, one of those grains was Quinoa. At first its use confused me, but once I got into the hang of it, it quickly became a staple to my diet. You honestly can’t go wrong with something that can be used as a base for every meal from breakfast to dinner, while still having so many nutritional benefits (think high in fiber, iron, vitamin b, and other goodies). This is why I wasn’t at all surprised, and instead was absolutely ecstatic, when I came across the fact that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations had named 2013 the International Year of Quinoa (IYQ).
With the Tag line “A future Sown Thousands of Years Ago” the objective of IQY is simple:
To focus world attention on the role that quinoa´s biodiversity and nutritional value play in food security, nutrition, and poverty eradication, and in support of the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals including the Millennium Development Goals.
- Increase the visibility of the great potential of quinoa to contribute to global food security, especially in countries where the population has no access to other protein sources or where production conditions are limiting.
- Prepare technical and policy frameworks for the conservation and sustainable use of quinoa diversity worldwide.
- Recognize and value the contribution of the indigenous peoples of the Andes as custodians of quinoa who conserve this food for present and future generations.
- Improve international cooperation and partnerships between public, private and non-governmental organizations related to the cultivation of quinoa.
- Appreciate the importance of developing sustainable production systems for quinoa for consumption and food security.
- Awareness of what is quinoa and how it can help alleviate hunger and malnutrition.
- Better understanding of the markets, opportunities, constraints and channels in order to link quinoa, and quinoa producers of indigenous communities to markets and expand existing markets.
- Advance scientific and technical knowledge and information exchange on quinoa.
- Programs and projects to promote the expansion of quinoa beyond the Andes to other countries.
As a social worker I am always thrilled to come across the use of personal and internal strengths to solve problems, and IYQ truly is a macro (public/community/global) example of such an effort! To me this is a two fold initiative. In one respect the FAO is supporting a global initiative which, through science, technology, marketing, and sustainable efforts, could lessen the strain of global food insecurity. It would also improve access to nutritionally rich foods for thousands, if not millions, of individuals world wide. This is the true nature of food advocacy and global thinking.
The second initative emphasizes the involvement of the Andes people, not only as custodians and protectors of this important product, but also as providers of quinoa to the global market. This piece connects ‘local’ or ‘small’ business agriculture with a larger market, creates job opportunities, and seems to suggest that such systems should be set up globally to eliminate hunger and food insecurity. To me this is an AMAZING move that highlights the importance of native peoples, native foods, and sustainable traditional growing methods, to the food market as it stands today. Our high-tech, big business, means of offering food and managing global agriculture are failing. This is evident by the simple fact that food insecurity exists in and of itself. Hopefully, though experience with Quinoa and its effects on global hunger, similar programs will evolve.
In the ways above the International Year of Quinoa is indeed something to keep our eyes on, as both a food initiative to improve our current global food crisis and a model for sustainable agriculture on a global level. This is something BIG, something valuable, and I hope that the outcome is just as powerful as the intended message.
On an individual level we could help IYQ by spreading awareness of its existence. Go ahead and share your favorite quinoa recipe, introduce someone who may not have ever tried quinoa (or even heard about it) , and tell it’s story! Celebrate Quinoa, because simple things, that have the potential to create such change, are worth celebrating on every level.
Written By Georgianna Dolan-Reilly, LMSW
SJS Staff Writer