Welcome to the Margaret A. Gilliam Institute for Global Food Security! The goal of our institute is to become a magnet that attracts researchers, professionals, and students from all over the world, who are interested and passionate about working (and fighting) for a world free of hunger. We hope also that this institute turns into a platform from which you, in collaboration with colleagues in a wide range of disciplines, will launch novel ideas and initiatives to tackle what we consider one of the most important challenges humanity has faced. The number of food insecure and hungry people around the world is still unacceptably high, and even the most conservative estimates present to us a daunting picture of hundreds of millions individuals around the world unable to meet the most basic food needs.
Being food insecurity such a complex phenomenon, our approach needs to be as comprehensive as possible. In addition to almost one billion people without enough calories available to meet their daily energy consumption requirements, hundreds of millions suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies that put them at a higher risk for disease and mortality. Furthermore, nowadays we know that food insecurity is not a problem affecting only populations in the developing world. In the industrialized world large groups of people face particular levels of food insecurity as well. Newly generated evidence shows that at certain levels of food insecurity (not as severe as in the poorest population groups) people might have a higher risk for overweight, obesity, and therefore for chronic diseases such as diabetes. Achieving food security means not only to have sufficient foods to mitigate hunger or to fulfill one’s caloric needs. It also means having access to food of adequate nutritional value, which allows people to meet all dietary requirements for an active and healthy life. In the developing world a growing number of countries are currently faced with these twin burdens of obesity and under-nourishment. Today, more than ever, governments and agencies working on food security need a clear and comprehensive understanding of the problem, in order to enact policies that will be helpful in each particular situation. Different levels of food insecurity required differentiated approaches, interventions, and public policies.
At McGill University, our Global Food Security Institute counts on colleagues with a wide range of expertise, which allows us to work on fostering interdisciplinary research on food security at a local, national and international level. As part of our vision, we are also supportive of initiatives and programs that allow our students at the graduate and at the undergraduate level to get trained in all food security aspects, and to develop the kit of tools needed for their future work, and have a positive impact in the fight against hunger. Our collaboration with governmental and non-governmental agencies throughout the world aims to assist policy makers and practitioners with the knowledge gained by colleagues and students in academia. Evidence-based public policy and programs against food insecurity has shown to be a very powerful tool to achieve the goal of decreasing the number of food insecure people.
As the director of the Institute for Global Food Security I feel honored by the privilege I have to greet you, and I am very pleased to invite researchers, students, practitioners, and colleagues from all over the world to join us in the fight against hunger and food insecurity. With certainty you can count on us and on our resources in your highly valued work.
hugo.melgar-quinonez [at] mcgill.ca (Hugo Melgar-Quiñonez)