In celebration of AUB’s 150th anniversary, and with its slogan “Healthy Earth, Healthy Food, Healthy People,” AUB’s Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences (FAFS) held a two-day event under the theme “Together towards a Sustainable Community” on the 29th and 30th of September 2016.
A series of lectures, panel discussions, and activities were held over three stages hosted by the Nutrition and Food Sciences (NFSC) Department, the Environment and Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU), and the Food Security Program, respectively under the titles “Nutrition and Food: Ongoing Journey for Better Health”; “Arab Women: Keepers of the Land”; and “Celebration of Food and Nutrition Security in the Middle East and North Africa”.
The sessions were attended by officials from the Ministry of Health; representatives from national, regional, and international organizations; members of the FAFS external advisory board, members of the AUB administration and AUB Deans, AUB and FAFS faculty members and students, and experts in the field from the AUB community who engaged in a series of lectures and discussions tackling regional challenges facing agricultural production, food and nutrition security, sustainable diets, and the livestock industry.
“For 150 years, our university has succeeded in achieving academic excellence and regional distinction,” said Dean of FAFS, Dr. Nahla Hwalla, during her opening speech. “[FAFS] is glad to have shared more than 60 years of this outstanding journey. We are indeed proud to have accompanied AUB in a remarkable path towards making history.”
Nutrition and Food: Ongoing Journey for Better Health
A series of lectures on emerging nutritional issues was initiated with a keynote lecture by Dr. Amira Kassis, Research Scientist at Nestlé Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland, about the Solar Impulse Project and the personalized nutritional program designed by a team of experts to sustain pilots and help them adapt to harsh conditions during the first complete circumnavigation of the earth using a solar powered fixed-wing piloted aircraft.
Dean Nahla Hwalla delivered a presentation about the importance of adhering to the Lebanese Mediterranean Diet as a healthy and sustainable cultural heritage that is internationally hailed and evidence-based effective for the prevention of chronic diseases. She called for national policies to adopt this diet by promoting sustainable diets and sustainable food consumption as a means to respond to current global challenges and reduce the burden of food and nutrition insecurity in the region.
Dr. Shadi Saleh, Associate Vice President for Health Affairs and Professor of Health Systems and Financing, discussed AUB’s Health 2025 vision emphasizing the Global Health Initiative (GHI) component and its great value in positioning AUB as a global partner on health. He highlighted the importance of recognizing the Nutrition, Obesity, and Related Diseases (NORD) program as a foundational program within GHI, given the great knowledge and service gap that it will fill in the region and beyond.
A Food Safety Awareness session was held by the NFSC department in collaboration with ROADSTER DINER entitled “Food Safety at Home” and presented by Ms. Reem Hamzeh, emphasizing the importance of food safety practices at home and shedding light on common misconceptions.
Interactive Activities towards Healthier and Sustainable Lives
Outside the event venue, in the FAFS courtyard, the session Nutrition and Food: Ongoing Journey for Better Health was expanded with three main interactive and educational activities.
The “Fit-a-thon” activity was developed and implemented by the Nutrition and Dietetics Coordinated Program (NDCP) students in collaboration with the Health and Wellness Center at AUBMC. This year’s theme “Flashback to Our Roots” contributed to raising awareness about healthy lifestyles by promoting the Lebanese Mediterranean Diet and physical activity amongst the Lebanese community, and featured four booths: nutritional assessment, nutrition education, physical activity, and the Lebanese Mediterranean Diet.
The Food Safety Awareness session in collaboration with ROADSTER DINER featured two hands-on activities: ‘Stack the Fridge’ whereby participants were encouraged to experiment with their own hands the strategies for proper and safer food, and a “Myths or Facts” competition that tested the participants’ knowledge of food safety. Flyers detailing food safety tips and practices and highlighting key messages of the lecture were also distributed to participants.
A third activity on Sports Nutrition was given by FAFS alumni team “Healthy Happy Us”, who performed live exercise sessions and provided participants with nutrition tips for an optimal workout, with an emphasis on supplement intake and daily protein requirements.
The Environment and Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU) at FAFS hosted the second event. ESDU is one of the trend-setters in R&D in the MENA region and has developed a strong base in rural sustainable livelihoods and participatory resource management.
The Unit celebrated its 15th anniversary under the theme of “Arab women: Keepers of the land”. The ceremony was opened by a welcome note by Dean Hwalla, followed by a speech from AUB president Dr. Fadlo Khuri. Director of ESDU, Dr. Shadi Hamadeh, presented a timeline of ESDU journey, showing the great achievements that the unit has accomplished during the past 15 years, in both research and development and community work.
International award-winning filmmaker Mai Masri, most notably known for her latest film “3000 nights”, delivered the keynote speech “Through Women’s Eyes: Reclaiming a Fractured Land”.
ESDU recognized friends and partners from private, governmental, and academic sectors. Mrs. Wafa Deeka Hamzeh, Mrs. Hala Achour Safieddine, Dr. Mona Haidar and Dr. Charlotte Karam, were honored for their achievements and contributions in advancing the role of women in preserving their lands and heritage.
It also honored women from the ESDU team, thanking them for their efforts through the unit’s different projects . In addition, six women “champions” from the local and regional communities (Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan) received the “Keepers of the Land” recognition award, a textile handwoven by the Artisanal Women Cooperative in Aarsal.
The celebrations also included an all-day traditional farmers’ market, a mime show by Re-Creation group, a heritage dinner buffet prepared by the Food Heritage Foundation and a special dabkeh performance by Al-Bayader Group for Palestinian Folk Art.
The third event started on the second day with a lecture by Dr. Clemens Breisinger, Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), who addressed agricultural production and trade in light of evolving supply and demand patterns in the MENA region.
A panel discussion followed on “Sustainable Diets for a Sustainable Future,” providing an overview of recent evidence on the intersection of food security, nutrition, and environmental sustainability.
The connection is clear: “Food security cannot exist without sustainable food systems,” stated Dr. Hamid Al Bilali, Researcher at the International Center for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies in Bari, Italy (CIHEAM-Bari).
The audience was then introduced to a new, interactive, online mapping tool and knowledge platform designed to support evidence-based decision making in agriculture and food security in Lebanon.
The Lebanon Spatial data atlas launched at the event is a joint initiative of IFPRI and FAFS. It provides an online platform to help policy makers target areas of the country most vulnerable to food insecurity. The atlas is open now at www.lebanonspatial.org.
The celebration concluded with the announcement and award of winners of the #AUBFoodSecurity digital photo contest on food security.
Check Food Security Conference Page: https://aub.edu.lb/fafs/FoodSecurity/Resources/Conferences/Pages/FS150Event.aspx