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Malnutrition in a Global Context

With the COVID-19 pandemic triggering empty shelves in grocery stores and interruptions to our food supply chains, issues of food insecurity have become increasingly relevant in our society. However, why do food scarcity and malnutrition affect some populations around the world more than others? What factors contribute to the growing burden of malnutrition globally? And what role do we as individuals have in mitigating its consequences?


How can we approach this issue and contribute to raising awareness in a post-pandemic world?

The World Health Organisation has defined malnutrition as excesses, deficits or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and nutrients. There are three different forms of malnutrition that can co-exist in the same individual, family, or community:  

  • Undernutrition, which causes wasting (low weight-for-height), stunting (low height-for-age) and underweight (low weight-for-age)

  • Micronutrient-related malnutrition, which involves either a deficiency or excess of important vitamins and minerals

  • Obesity and other noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes

“The double burden of malnutrition”: It is estimated that around 45% of deaths in children aged 5 or under are linked to undernutrition in low and middle-income countries. Unfortunately, these same countries are also experiencing rising rates of childhood obesity. 

Through a series of events throughout the year, we are hoping to provide students with opportunities to learn, critically analyse and navigate issues to do with malnutrition globally. 


Step 1: Malnutrition in a Global Context
(5pm, 4th May 2022)


MUGHS proudly presented “Malnutrition in a Global Context”, an engaging and interactive workshop on the topic of nutrition and healthy eating written by our Education Team.


The workshop consisted of two activities: “In the Supermarket” and “Commercial Determinants of Health”. The first activity involved each team representing a character and given their age, gender, occupation, budget, and a short description of their usual diet. Participants then made meal plans and marked according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

The second activity was a debate between team Big Food vs Australian Government to decide on a strategy that will improve childhood nutrition.


Overall, it was a successful night with interesting discussions as university students from various disciplines came together to learn more about malnutrition in both Australia and in a global health context.

Step 2: Food for Thought: Malnutrition in a Global Context Panel Event
(6pm, 9th May 2022)


The online panel event, “Food for Thought” involved a diverse panel of speakers discussing the various facets of malnutrition in both local and global contexts, considering issues such as food access and sustainability, as well as how we can empower our communities in the process of tackling these issues. 

Dr Peter Johnston from Doctors For Nutrition: An accredited practising dietitian who also runs his own practice: Perfect Human Food Consulting. We heard about his perspective on malnutrition in Australia and what he has learnt from his experiences and practice.

Lucy Farmer from FareShare: For 20 years FareShare has been rescuing quality food and cooking it into nutritious meals for people experiencing hardships. FareShare is a charity food kitchen which has been cooking free, nutritious meals for people doing it since 2001. 

Jess Parker from The Hunger Project Australia: Jess brings a global perspective to the issue of hunger and malnutrition through her work with The Hunger Project Australia, a global non-for-profit with a mission to end hunger and poverty. 

Rob Rees from Cultivating Community: Rob's work with Cultivating Community is all about building resilient food systems and strengthening communities. Their motto is “growing a better food future” and a vision for joyful, connected communities who care for each other and our earth.

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Step 3: FareShare Volunteering Evening 

MUGHS hosted three evening sessions to help out in FareShare's kitchen, who provide delicious, free meals from rescued, donated and homegrown ingredients to improve the lives of Australians in hardship. FareShare is an organisation committed to ensuring that every individual has access to a nutritious meal everyday. As a team, we prepared, packaged and sealed over 2000 meals ready for transport and distribution. The student volunteers had a lovely time seeing how FareShare works behind the scenes and the hard work that goes into creating the final single-serve meals.

Step 4: Fundraising for FareShare

To wrap up our 4-step Action Plan in exploring Malnutrition, we raised funds for FareShare through a ticketed movie night as well as participating in the 2022 FareShare FootSteps Challenge. From the two fundraisers, it was a great way for students to actively advocate and contribute to the global health issue of Malnutrition. In collaboration with MUGHS Nossal, our high school branch, MUGHS proudly raised and contributed over $1600 to FareShare. We would like to again say a big thank you to FareShare for helping us to educate and raise awareness on Malnutrition. You have helped us achieve our goal to educate university students from all backgrounds on global health issues, and motivated them to get involved.

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