FSM Food Systems Dialogue’s Preparatory Mini-Dialogues Conclude, State-based Discussions to Begin Soon; All FSM Citizens Interested in Addressing Food & Health, Food & Livelihood, and Food & Security Explicitly Encouraged to Attend & Add to the Discussion

PALIKIR, Pohnpei—Preparatory mini-dialogues were recently held across the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) as part of the broader FSM Food Systems Dialogue, which will inform the Nation’s discussions at the forthcoming United Nations (UN) Food Systems Summit in September, 2021. The mini-dialogues focused on the themes of Food & Health, Food & Livelihood, and Food & Security, and served as a prelude to how the FSM Food Systems Dialogues will evolve over the next four weeks, with the conclusion of the Dialogue resulting in the Nation’s input to the UN Food Systems Summit.

Ms. Elina P. Akinaga, the FSM’s UN Food Summit Dialogue Convener and His Excellency David W. Panuelo’s contemporary nominee for Secretary of the Department of Resources & Development, described that the intention of the FSM Food Summit is to bring together the broadest range of stakeholders possible to collectively look at issues relating to the role of food in all aspects of health, life, and the environment in the FSM, with the goal being to agree on means to make sustained improvements in those areas.

Improvements in these areas are manifestly necessary. Approximately 33% of FSM adults suffer from a non-communicable disease (NCD) such as diabetes, and more than 70% of FSM adults die from NCDs. 37% of children under five years old, and 25% of women of reproductive age, are anemic. 79.8% of FSM adult women are overweight, and just over 51% of the Nation’s children are overweight.

Less than 30% of FSM women receive prenatal care in their first trimester of pregnancy. 39 out of every 1,000 children die before they reach five years old (the Sustainable Development Goal target is 25 out of every 1,000—and the ideal scenario is all children survive and thrive). 80% of the FSM’s children who died before they were five, tragically, died before their first birthday. More than half of infant deaths occur before they are one-month old. The causes are predominantly due to respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia, and gastrointestinal diseases such as diarrhea. This data presumes all births and deaths are reported, and often they are not in remote communities.

In the coming weeks, the FSM Food Systems Dialogue will provide a venue for all stakeholders—to especially include members of the public—to identify why contemporary and historical efforts to address these issues are not working, and to seek to determine superior solutions.

Thus, in the area of Food & Health, the FSM Food Systems Dialogue might explore how to reduce the rate of NCDs in the Nation, including identifying if our country has access to the right (nutritious) food, and who is the most vulnerable to NCDs. Should the Nation raise taxes on sugary drinks? Should the Nation ban the import of certain types of salty foods? Should cultural affection for largeness, formerly a sign of health, wealth, and love, be changed? Should schools implement a healthy lunch program? And, if the answer to any of these or other possible questions is “yes”— how can the Nation go about implementing the solution?

In the area of Food & Livelihood, the FSM Food Systems Dialogue might explore identifying potential small-scale practices to be highlighted and invested in, such as traditional methods of fixing and preserving food. Additionally, the Dialogue might explore how the Nation can improve small- scale production in a way that is sensitive to nature while also stabilizing incomes and generating a wider range of local products. Should subsistence-farmers band together to form cooperatives? As health, education, and economic development—as broad categories—are intrinsically linked together, with one affecting the other, should health, education, and economic development policies be developed collectively instead of in isolation? Should eminent domain play a role in the Nation’s agricultural practices? Should schools teach courses on how to farm, cook, and preserve food? If the answer to any of these or other possible questions is “yes”—how can the Nation go about implementing the solution?

It is the hope of the FSM National Government that the FSM Food Systems Dialogue will draw connections between other sectors of society, and take datapoints that may otherwise exist in isolation to form a coherent narrative of challenges that can be addressed with an equally coherent narrative of answers.

The FSM Food Systems Dialogue’s in-person, State-level consultations will take place over the course of July and August, 2021, continuing beyond the UN Food Summit in September 2021, with the intent to link actions into policy and budget allocation processes. All citizens, residents, and stakeholders are explicitly encouraged to contribute to the discussion.

“Banana storms—named because they are storms big enough to fell banana trees—are increasingly common in remote atolls, meaning after a Climate Change-related disaster, you have saltwater intrusion in your taro patch and your bananas have all fallen to the ground,” President Panuelo said in a statement. “Of all the ways it’s possible for our lives to end, for the great majority of us it happens because of the foods we eat, or the foods we don’t eat, or the foods we simply don’t have a chance to eat. Meanwhile, most of our population are the definition of yeoman farmers—we own our own land, and we farm it with our family, meaning that we necessarily do not have large-scale production of any given crop that the average person can reliably find in a market, with limited exceptions. There are certain types of actions the Government can do, the Private Sector can do, and the average person can do, but what those actions should be, and how we can achieve them, is the goal of the FSM Food Systems Dialogue.”

“I call upon each and every one of you interested in helping us address these important issues about the food we eat by reaching out to your respective State’s convener for the UN Food Summit,” President Panuelo continued.

Ms. Elina P. Akinaga is the National convener and may be emailed at eakinaga@fsmrd.fm. The State of Kosrae’s focal point is Mr. Gerson Jackson, Director of the Kosrae Department of Resources & Economic Affairs, and may be emailed at gajackson12@gmail.com. The State of Pohnpei’s focal point is Mr. Hubert Yamada, Director of the Pohnpei Department of Resources & Development, and may be emailed at huberty08@yahoo.com. The State of Chuuk’s focal point is Ms. MyjolynneKim, Chief of Staff to the Governor of Chuuk, and may be emailed at myjolynne@gmail.com. The State of Yap’s focal point is Ms. Arlynne Chugen, Director of the Yap Department of Resources & Development, and may be emailed at shofca@gmail.com.