Food security is an essential first step towards healthy living. It entails access to quality food, in quantities sufficient to support a person´s vital systems and to satisfy their nutritional needs. Through the national “Let’s Eat Fish” program in Peru, an interesting experiment in food education and market coordination is underway.
This Ministry of Production (Produce) program was launched in 2012 and since that time, through awareness raising campaigns and activities, has been working strategically to increase the consumption of hydrobiological products and promote food education across the country. In just a few years, “Let’s Eat Fish” has begun to change Peru´s long-time paradox: a global fishing leader that itself consumed little seafood. Today, a significant increase in annual per capita consumption of hydrobiological products is being witnessed, with growth from 13.2% in 2012 to 16.2% in 2015 meaning that thousands of Peruvians have made a positive change to their lives. The program carries an important message: consumption of fish rich in proteins and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids—such as anchovy, bonito, or mackerel—is highly nutritious.
From the pier to the table
Many artisanal fisherman have found new opportunities along the virtuous “Let’s Eat Fish” chain. They have been able to deliver their products the main restaurants and markets in the capital Lima, thanks to advice and management, alliances with regional governments, universities and private organizations, and festivals and gastronomy competitions. And they are incorporating best practices into their daily work—better sanitary conditions, and more sustainable fishing through self-imposed closed seasons.
“We have coordinated supply with demand through ‘Let’s Eat Fish’. And we work with educators and the Ministry of Health to promote better nutrition practices, especially in the nine regions where we are active. Our goal is to lift the consumption of hydrobiological products across the country, raising awareness of their nutritional richness and the importance of looking after the resource”, explains Gonzalo Llosa, director of the program and an expert in environmental issues.
In 2016, “Let’s Eat Fish” held 1,359 food education workshops, directly reaching more than 28,400 people, including operators of small restaurants, health sector professionals, and social program technical personnel. PescaEduca is another initiative strengthening the nutrition culture of teachers, parents, and students. It is putting paid to myths about fish consumption: that it causes allergies in babies, or that the fresh product is more nutritious than the frozen. As program nutritionist Carlos Rubiños point out, “‘Let’s Eat Fish’ is changing eating habits in Peruvians and has generated greater awareness about hydrobiological products”.
For the same cause
Programs such as “Let´s Eat Fish” show that is it possible to generate change in society so that now and in the future everyone, including the most vulnerable, can be assured of access to food that is healthy, nutritious, and sufficient for their needs. This is consistent with Sustainable Development Objective (SDG) 2: end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
Francesco de Sanctis, chef and owner of Síbaris restaurant, believes this is possible. As a member of “The Generation with a Cause”, a movement of more than 50 chefs who work on behalf of Peruvian gastronomy—while at the same time promoting social, dietary and environmental issues—he is clear on the need to protect our ocean and promote responsible fishing. “Coming from the north of the Peru, I have lived with the sea all my life. My family was involved in fishing for many years and I think that is why I learned the importance of raising awareness in people of the need to look after it”, he reflects.
“The Generation with a Cause” has prepared a ten-point manifesto that includes zero hunger and child malnutrition, social work, traceability, fair trade, and development in Peru. The movement’s campaign for marine sustainability emphasizes compliance with closed seasons and raises awareness about care of the oceans, “so that the message for society is clear”.
The movement is well organized and the results of its work can be seen in the increasing diffusion of its message across Peru and the spread of Peruvian gastronomy internationally. “Today´s truly passionate and aware chefs do not just cook; they have a broader responsibility”, says de Sanctis.
So, while the consumption of hydrobiological products continues to grow nationally and begins to surpass that of red meat, “Let’s Eat Fish” and “The Generation with a Cause” provide valuable support to food security in the country. Each initiative has found support from new opinion leaders, young entrepreneurs, and prosperous fisherman and aquaculturists, who are all committed to education about marine life, and to encouraging responsible fishing. “Being creative and persistent is leading us to change the paradigms of Peruvian fisherman, aquaculturists, and consumers”, concludes Gonzalo Llosa.