A network of training hubs will support capacity strengthening efforts across food systems in Africa and beyond.
HILTON, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, 20 Nov 2019 – One-third of the global population suffers from some form of malnutrition. Whether it be overweight or obesity, underweight or stunting, or a myriad of micronutrient deficiencies, global food systems are failing to deliver a wide enough variety of safe and nutritious foods to prevent malnutrition.
Malnutrition, particularly in the earliest years of life, can lead to a lifetime of irreversible health and economic challenges. On the health side, the 2017 Global Burden of Disease study indicates that poor quality diets are a direct and indirect cause of over 20% of global mortality. On the economic side, malnutrition has been linked to poor educational attainment as children, leading to poor work productivity as adults, resulting in losses of up to 11% of the GDP in Africa and Asia annually. The Copenhagen Consensus regards nutrition interventions as having some of the highest returns on investment for countries to prioritize.
Directly related to malnutrition is the ability of a food system to provide affordable access to safe and high-quality nutritious foods. This in turn requires significant capacity to create and adhere to regulations that govern food safety and quality, while using monitoring and laboratory data to make evidence-based decisions.
Existing capacity strengthening efforts in this area have often been donor-driven and project-specific, utilizing the expertise of international experts. This practice has led to some significant short-term capacity gains, but are too often not robust enough to be sustained through high turnover and institutional and industrial priority changes. There is also a growing local expertise gap as not enough young and rising experts are being empowered to own and lead such knowledge transfer activities.
The Lodestar Centre of Excellence Creates a Paradigm Shift in Sustaining Local Capacity for Food Testing
The Lodestar Centre of Excellence (COE) was formally launched at the AOAC-Sub Saharan Africa Section Annual Meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, 5-8 November 2019, with a commitment to support the food testing community. Driven to providing sustainable, locally relevant, and hands-on training, the Lodestar COE will utilize a training of trainers of trainers model, strengthening a new cadre of local experts. The Lodestar COE platform will exist as a permanently available resource for industry, regulatory and standards institutions, laboratories, and civil society working to improve the safety and quality of foods for better nutrition.
Dr. Anna Zhenchuk, Managing Director of BioAnalyt, one of the founding partners of the Lodestar COE, spoke of the initiative as critical to support capacity strengthening on both sides of the laboratory analysis. She says, “In our experience, there is a lot of training needed on activities before and after the laboratory, such as how to sample properly and how to interpret data for action. This is where the Lodestar COE can have greatest impact within the food testing community.”
“Trust between sectors and stakeholders is critical to improve food systems, and trust comes from credibility, confidence, and consistency in how we evaluate and communicate the safety and quality of nutritious foods,” says Corey Luthringer, the Lodestar COE’s Executive Director.
About the Lodestar Centre of Excellence
The Lodestar Centre of Excellence is a network of knowledge transfer and training hubs that improves and sustains capacity strengthening efforts in the areas of food safety and quality, food technology, and nutrition. Founded in 2019, the Lodestar COE provides hands-on training to build the next generation of experts in topics that drive data transparency and actions that enhance food systems. The first Lodestar COE hub will open in South Africa in April 2020, followed by additional global hubs planned in the next 3-5 years.