Fair, healthy and sustainable food systems: CNS debates food health and the environment at the 350th RO

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Researchers warn of the need to adapt healthy eating, health care model and traditional cultures

Rice with sweet potato leaves, chayote with cambuquira and cabbage with bertalha are dishes that could easily be on a natural food restaurant menu, but which during the 350th Ordinary Meeting of the National Health Council were presented as part of an innovative diet therapy proposal offered to patients at the Hospital das Clínicas in São Paulo. The first RO of 2024 was held this Wednesday (31/1), at the CNS plenary in Brasília, and promoted a broad debate on food systems and their repercussions on health and the environment.

In the year in which we celebrate ten years of the creation of the Food Guide for the Brazilian Population and 25 years of the National Food and Nutrition Policy, the CNS Intersectoral Nutrition and Food Commission (Cian) promoted a meeting between research nutritionists with the aim of reflect on food injustices and how food, environment and health are interconnected.

Working in the hospital area for 17 years, nutrition researcher at the Faculty of Public Health of the University of São Paulo (USP), Weruska Barrios, reveals the importance of talking about nutritional epidemiology. “What are we offering our patients? What is the actual composition and quality of the food, understanding that the patient is in the hospital seeking clinical improvement and health and why is hospital malnutrition so prevalent?” asks the guest speaker, who highlights the need to encourage this perspective within multidisciplinary teams.

In this regard, Myrian Cruz, national health advisor and coordinator of Cian, recalls that at the end of 2023 the Secretariat of Specialized Health Care of the Ministry of Health (Saes/MS) published Ordinance GM/MS No. 2,862, which excluded the nutritionist as member of the minimum team in Intensive Care Units (ICU).

In practice, the quality of food must involve the choice of ingredients based on the nutritional quality that the patient needs, looking at the biodiversity of local foods that are available. “The hospital diet needs to be inserted in the context of a sustainable diet”, declares Weruska. Another important tool is continuing education, uniting nutritionists with local producers and health students, providing so-called culinary medicine. Coordination with family farming supplier networks and the hospital network also endorses the scope of proposed changes.

The quilombola food

Healthy and sustainable food systems are nothing new in Brazilian quilombola territories and communities, as Rute Costa, professor at the Institute of Food and Nutrition at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), points out. Also a guest at the table, Rute says that she designed her professional research trajectory understanding that in these spaces there are also productions of knowledge and perspectives of knowledge that go against the current hegemonic diet. “Food processes in territories have integrated visions between human beings and nature, which is why food is the strongest lever to seek human health and the relationship between man and nature, thinking about more sustainable food systems”, she says .

Quoting Maria Beatriz Nascimento, an important Brazilian historian, Rute explains the concept of quilombola peace. “The concept of quilombola peace is associated with the way of living that unites: knowing the territory, conserving forests and waters and producing food. The idea of ​​peace is related to nature, not as a resource from an economic point of view. Here, food is about peace,” she declares.

Thinking about food and health from Afro-centered perspectives is also part of a decolonization process, that is, according to Rute, a colonial and racist perspective makes us understand that these people from quilombola communities were shaping themselves based on the idea of ​​escape and misdemeanor, such as an attempt to seize power. “We need to recognize that this discourse is not neutral, it even takes us away from realizing the potential of these places and these people”, he concludes.

Counter-hegemonic food systems in PHC

Juliana Casimiro, member of the Brazilian Forum on Food and Nutritional Sovereignty and Security, believes that the food systems approach has become more present in national and international contexts. “Until recently we heard: we are going to encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables, and from then on everything was the responsibility and responsibility of individuals”, she recalls. “Today we recognize that this has changed and there are a series of actors involved in these systems, from production and storage to the purchasing process and waste”, explains the nutritionist.

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The more processed the food, the more complex the food system, as it is based on the use of pesticides, transgenic seeds and technologies that are even more harmful to human beings and environmental health. At the other end, there is the food system that perpetuates food injustice. “It is in the territories, where the basic health units are located, that the first contacts with health repercussions caused by the hegemonic food system occur, but we need to recognize that access to healthy and adequate food is difficult”, he says.

The context of increased consumption of ultra-processed foods is related to the increase in chronic diseases and various types of cancer. Obesity, hunger and malnutrition are often present in the same health territory. “Hunger has been knocking on the door of Primary Care since the pandemic and this hunger has not gone away. Public policies are being resumed, especially in relation to family farming, but the hunger has not gone away”, he warns.

Between 2020 and 2022, the number of Brazilians experiencing food insecurity jumped from 19 million to 33 million people, in a record period of pesticide release in the country.

Check out the 350th RO Photo Gallery.

Source: Ascom/CNS

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: Fair healthy sustainable food systems CNS debates food health environment #350th

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