Why climate change is making it harder to eat nutritious foods around the world

Food security was put in the spotlight at a major nutrition conference in Auckland this week.  

Nutrition scientists from the Pacific Islands, Australia and Aotearoa attended as climate change continues to put more pressure on food supplies around the world. 

In the face of a worsening climate crisis, food security is a growing challenge for the Pacific Islands and Aotearoa. 

"What we're seeing is a loss of traditional food, and the traditional food tend to be the more healthy foods," chair of the organising committee Professor Pamela von Hurst said. 

It's one of the key topics at the Joint Conference of the Nutrition Societies of New Zealand and Australia. 

This year's event is set to be the biggest in the conference's history - with more than 380 attendees. 

"A really big theme of the conference this year is food security, sustainability and the effects of climate change on food supplies all around the Pacific and Australia and New Zealand," von Hurst said. 

A warming climate is already changing what we grow in Aotearoa. 

"If you go up north, the weather is definitely warming and they're growing things they wouldn't have thought of 20 years ago," Massey University's Professor Nick Rāhiri Roskruge said.   

"I'm in the Manawatu and I'm growing bananas and pineapples," Roskruge added. 

One of the issues the Pacific is facing is harmful algae that's contaminating seafood. 

"What we're seeing as a result of increased sea surface temperatures is the frequency of these blooms is increasing and the geographical reach is expanding," Cawthron Institute's marine scientist Dr Sam Murray said. 

It's a concerning reality for the region's food security.

"They're intrinsically linked into the reef system for sustenance and trade and basically they're playing Russian roulette with the fish they're having to eat," Murray said. "They've got no choice." 

Dr Murray is focused on finding a solution.

"The ultimate holy grail will be creating a little kit, like a COVID test, that can be used in these Pacific communities so they can get a fish and they can test it to see if it's safe to eat," he said. 

Solutions to the ever-changing climate crisis are key to maintaining food security in our part of the world.