Improving nutrition, food safety and food security for China’s most vulnerable women and children

News release

“These vegetables are all from my greenhouse. We have more things to eat now, not just pickles and potatoes as in the past,” said Shen Wanshu from Shuitang village, proudly displaying his home-grown produce which developed with the assistance of the UN-China program that aims to improve nutrition, food security and food safety in some of China’s poorest areas.

Shen Wanshu in his greenhouse

The UN/Spanish MDG Achievement Fund Joint Programme on Improving Nutrition, Food Safety and Food Security for China’s Most Vulnerable Women and Children (CFSN) which has been in place since December 2009, is a partnership led by WHO, with the collaboration of FAO, ILO, UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, UNIDO, and WFP, along with over 20 Ministries and institutions at the central and local levels.

In order to improve the health and nutrition of rural households in the western provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou and Shaanxi, households are encouraged and supported to raise poultry and livestock, and grow more vegetables and other produce that are rich in iron and Vitamin A. Nutritional supplements were also provided to families through the program.

Following the pilot program, there was a 33.8% decrease in the prevalence of anaemia, and a 46% decrease in Vitamin A deficiency and insufficiency in the pilot areas. These remarkable results led to a CNY 100 million (US$ 16 million) investment from the central government, through which the program was expanded to 100 counties.

Trainings in food production practices were also provided to food businesses in the pilot areas. Following the training, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system certification was granted to these enterprises in recognition of their high food safety standards. As a result, one of the businesses involved – Meiling Food Factory in Guizhou – received no complaints about their mooncake products during the Mid-Autumn festival in 2012, in stark contrast with the number of complaints received in previous years. The number of orders also increased by 50%!

This successful project has had positive impacts on the lives of the poor, women and children by improving nutrition, food safety and food security in six of the poorest counties in western China – and contributed to the achievement of several Millennium Development Goals in China: the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; empowering women; reducing child mortality; and improving maternal health.