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Conversation with Sadia Kaenzig

Head of Communications

Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition

Geneva, Switzerland

January 2021

What connects us: Charleston, Geneva, Budapest, and Olaug.

What does the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) strive to do?

One out of three people in the world go to bed hungry or experience a form of malnourishment, including obesity. Depending on where you live, you might have access to only one type of food, for example, rice for all of your meals. In other places, food that is accessible is high in saturated fat, sugar, or salt. GAIN is working to fix the food system, to make nutritious food affordable, accessible, and desirable. 

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your community’s work?

The COVID-19 lockdowns have placed a spotlight on the weaknesses of food systems. The transmission rate of the pandemic has significantly affected the elderly, but system disruption is greatly impacting mothers, pregnant women, and children, especially if they live in poor or remote settings. The supply chain is interrupted; they don’t have access to the food they had before. When children under five years old are malnourished, it has impacts for their entire life cycle and the generations after them. If we don’t act now, we may lose an entire generation. We’re doing everything we can to keep food systems working, by protecting the nutrition status of those most threatened.

How does racial equity and social justice intersect with improving nutrition?

Inequity and exclusion cause malnutrition, and malnutrition exacerbates inequity. We have to change the fact that people are being left out of the food system, from who we hire to how we “see” malnutrition by including different perspectives – so systems are locally responsive and sustainable. One such example is our work with local farm holders and food processors. They are fortifying food staples they produce such as rice with technical assistance from GAIN.

Fortified rice

Food staples such as rice are fortified with technical assistance from GAIN.

GAIN advocates for nutritious food available and affordable to all. 

In Patagonia

A top travel writing book recommended by Sadia.

When was a moment when you saw groups mobilize; what did they accomplish?

GAIN is working with governments, the private sector, economists, health agencies, nutritionists, and other experts to fix the food system. Everything we do is science-based, grounded in data and modeling. We’re currently collaborating with the Micronutrient Forum and others to track the impact of COVID-19 on malnutrition in the Standing Together for Nutrition consortium. Global actors are relying on this data and they are mobilizing to make 2021 a year of action to end malnutrition. Nutrition for Growth is set to secure much needed funding for nutrition for the next four years. What’s more, the very first United Nations Food Systems Summit will take place in September. We are at the start of something big, like where we were with the first climate change summit 30 years ago; this time, to change the way we eat, consume, and produce food. 

What can people do individually and in their communities?

When you’re at the supermarket, think about the vegetables you can access. If you’re poor, it would probably cost you half your income to buy that food. Hold your governments accountable for prioritizing good nutrition, especially for vulnerable communities. Start by signing GAIN’s global letter to decision makers and Standing Together for Nutrition, to counter the pandemic’s impacts on malnutrition. You can also contribute your ideas to the UN Food Summit on a series of collective action tracks; for example, changes to food systems, to ensure sustainable access to safe and nutritious food for all.

What are some of the best books you have read?

On the Road by Jack Kerouac and In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin. I love travel writing. When you travel, you go to explore another area. Actually, you end up exploring and learning about yourself.

What brings you hope?

Hope is having a vaccine for COVID-19. It normally takes 15 years to develop a vaccine. Now one has been developed in record time. It’s magnificent. It reminds me that we have human agency, and we have so much potential. That said, vaccine recipients can’t let their guard down. We should still mask up, physical distance, stay at home if sick, and wash our hands!

Connect with Sadia

Learn more about the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition and connect with Sadia at or on Twitter @skaenzig.

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