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Understanding the food system in Vietnam

Getting food is one of our primary need and today, the world is producing more food than ever. However, a growing world population and rising income levels, combined with serious natural resource degradation and climate change, pose enormous challenges to our global food system.

We need to adopt more sustainable methods in order to provide access to safe, affordable and nutritious food for every person, without damaging the natural environment or wasting resources.

 

What is a Food System?
A food system is a complex web of activities involving the production, processing, transport, and consumption of food. It includes sub-systems in topics like communication, education, and culture. The relationships between these sub-parts influence the efficiency and sustainability of the overall system. Since the sub-systems rely on each other, changes in one sub-system will affect all the others.

Issues concerning the food system include the governance and economics of food production, its sustainability, the degree to which we waste food, how food production affects the natural environment and the impact of food on individual and population health.

Making our food system sustainable means meeting our current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  Many changes need to be made at both consumer and corporate levels in order to achieve this.  It may seem like a daunting task since the food system is made up of so many elements, but there are many steps that can be taken to raise awareness and work to increase sustainability every day.

 

What are Vietnam’s Food System Characteristics?
Geographically:
Vietnam’s food system benefits from the diverse climate and geology, which allows a large variety of nutritious and fresh foods to be produced. Each region carries their distinctive and unique characteristics that reflect the living conditions of the people there.

In northern Vietnam, a colder climate limits the production and availability of spices. As a result, the foods there are often less spicy than those in other regions. Black pepper is used in place of chilies as the most popular ingredient to produce spicy flavors.

Central Vietnam is the region in which food is prepared with the strongest and boldest flavors. The abundance of spices produced on its mountainous terrain makes this region’s cuisine notable for its spicy food. Once the capital of the last dynasty of Vietnam, Hue’s culinary tradition features highly decorative and colorful food, reflecting the influence of ancient Vietnamese royal cuisine.

Finally, the warm weather of southern Vietnam creates an ideal condition for growing a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and livestock. As a result, foods in southern Vietnam are often tropical fruitsand fresh herbs. Sugar is added to food more than in the other regions. The preference for sweetness in southern Vietnam can also be seen through the widespread use of coconut milk in southern Vietnamese cuisine.

Economically:
Economic growth after 1986 brought significant changes to the traditional Vietnamese diet. Vietnam has significantly reduced food insecurity in rural areas. The increase of income has led to a diversification of food and the share of rice, which remains important, has reduced in the share of calories taken per day. It improved the incidence of low height and underweight and now higher amounts of starch, protein, and fat-rich foods are consumed.

But the nation is simultaneously experiencing undernutrition and obesity. Since 2011, 5% of children and 8% of women are overweight. Twice as many women are still underweight.

Culturally:

Food is also linked to strong social habits: Vietnamese people are used to eat frequent meals taken outside home.

And food is not limited to the kitchen. Indeed, a belief says that good health comes from balancing hot and cold. Foods are considered to be either hot or cold. For example, skin problems are hot and should be treated with cold foods, like rice, fruits, vegetables, or fish. Digestive problems are cold and should be treated with hot foods like meat, spices, and sweets. Food also plays a major role in Vietnamese traditional medicine.

Added to this, while occidental countries count four different tastes, Vietnam counts five: sweet, salty, bitter, pungent and sour. Which highlight the importance given to food.

 

What Food Challenges Does Vietnam Face Today?

Read more on Sustainable Vietnam ...
 

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Written by Perrine ROZEC, CSR Manager at CCIFV
First published on www.SustainableVietnam.com on February 11, 2020

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