World Food Day is a global celebration, created to mark the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The FAO was formed on October 16, 1945. Eva Wong Nava, Features Editor of Representation for Words & Pictures, takes a look at this celebration through food and books.


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations comprises more than a hundred countries — 150 to be exact. Leaders from member nations came together in 1979 and established World Food Day to raise awareness of food security, issues behind poverty and hunger, climate change affecting food production, and rising food prices, to name a few challenges. Since COVID-19, the aftermath of the virus sweeping the world has been added to the list of food crises. Today, we are faced with hikes in food prices and the wealth gap in the United Kingdom increasing many folds. The World Bank reports that the pandemic has exacerbated income inequality within countries. It is not a happy state of existence. (Source)


Marcus Rashford wants to raise awareness of food poverty in the UK

In the UK, Marcus Rashford MBE, is the UK’s child food poverty campaigner. He is, of course, also a famous footballer, using his name and fame to raise awareness of food poverty in the UK. Recently, Rashford became a children’s book author. Since finding the joy of reading at seventeen, he now recommends books through the Marcus Rashford Book Club because he knows that stories change lives.


As a former food blogger and a forever foodie, there is nothing that I love more than talking about food, especially international cuisines. This is, of course, not to be confused with fusion cuisines, though food is food, I hear you say. As a picture book author, I love it that there are so many books in my book world that introduces young readers to all kinds of food. Let’s take a look.


If you like cakes and desserts, you’ll love Dozens of Doughnuts (Putnam Young Readers, 2020) by Carrie Finison, illustrated by Brianne Farley. This is a sweet story about a bear who cares and loves to share, but something happens because of a miscalculation as baking is a precise science. Watch LouAnn and her friends shine when a doughnut feast becomes all too much.


Dozens of Doughnuts is about caring and sharing

All sweets and no savouries give a child toothache, so let’s introduce our young readers to a very nutritious main course — bibimbap. Newberry medalist, Linda Sue Park’s Bee-bim Bop (Clarion Books, 2005) is a delicious rhyming picture book about a little girl going shopping for ingredients to make mixed-up rice. It doubles as a recipe book showing young readers how to make this quintessential Korean rice dish. I love the whimsical illustrations by Ho Baek Lee. Korea-mania is on the rise as Korean food, music and drama have become part of life for many of us living in London. Korean food is also fast becoming popular in Glasgow.


A rhyming picture book come recipe book

Talking about bibimbap has made me think of another rice dish — biryani. This one is a cutie: Anni Dreams of Biryani (Two Lions, 2022) by Namita Moolani Mehra, illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat. What I love about this picture book is that it’s set in Singapore’s Little India. This book not only speaks to the diversity in the way rice is used in world cuisines, it speaks to the multi-cultural society that is Singapore, where world cuisines mingle due to centuries of continued immigration. There you can savour Chinese, Malay, Indian, Southeast Asian, and European dishes. I know, because this is the country of my birth where I've spent many a happy summer munching on world food. You’ll have to read this picture book to find out if Anni finds out the secret ingredient to a 200-year old family recipe for biryani.


This picture book is set in Singapore's Little India

From Singapore, we travel to the Philippines. Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina Lazo Gilmore, illustrated by Kristi Valiant (Shen's Books, 2014) has to be the most scrumptious book ever. It shines a light on an everyday Filipino dish — pancit. In the Philippines, pancit is found everywhere. It is a fried noodle dish that is, very much like chowmein, depending on where and who cooks it, variegated. My Filipino friends tell me that pancit is actually Chinese, brought to the Philippines by Chinese immigrants. A watercolour artwork from the 19th century documents a street vendor selling pancit. I love pancit because I love fried noodles. It is nothing like my mother’s fried noodles because pancit is a fusion dish — a mix of Chinese and Spanish — which makes it typically Filipino. To understand why Spanish, and also how America, has influenced Filipino cuisine, you’ll have to read up about Spain’s and America’s colonisation of the Philippines. Here is where I recommend Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay (David Fickling Books, 2018). 


In this story we are introduced to Pancit- a fried noodle dish

Whilst we are armchair travelling, let’s go to Mexico. Flying in our armchair is free, saving us a few bob which also comes with zero carbon footprints. Dragons Love Tacos (Scholastic US, 2015) by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri is a hilarious picture book about… yep, dragons and tacos… and salsa. You can’t have tacos without salsa, but salsa does something to dragons. How now, brown cow? I have no idea. But you kinda have to love spicy stuff, I guess. Tip: slow down on the hot sauce when you’re making your own salsa. Dragons will appreciate it.


Dragons...tacos...and salsa!


We’ve come to the end of our World Food Day armchair travelogue. I hope you’ve all had a delicious journey with me. As much as we celebrate world cuisines and show our young ones how to love food and not yuck other people’s yum, let’s remember that there are many children in this world who live below the poverty line where food is scarce. When you bite into your next bánh mì, bao, or burrito, spare a thought for a hungry child because we should “Leave NO ONE behind”.


José Honorato Lozano, Chino Pansitero, 19th Century Watercolour

Header image: World Food Day by Natelle Quek


Natelle Quek is a Malaysian-born illustrator who grew up in New Zealand, and now lives in leafy Southeast England. She focuses on children’s illustration, drawing from constant evolving influences, from popular culture, to her heritage and personal experiences, through to the natural world. Instagram @natelledrawsstuff Twitter @natellequek

Eva Wong Nava is a child of the diaspora. She lives between two worlds and is a citizen of many universes. She loves writing about food in her stories because food has all the ingredients that bring people together. Her YA historical fiction, The House of Little Sisters (Penguin Random House SEA, 2022) includes dishes from the Singapore Peranakan-Chinese food culture. When not eating out, Eva writes picture books. She feels that the UK lacks books about food for children and one day, she would like to have a book about Southeast Asian curries and cakes published. You can read her food blog here. Find Eva @evawongnava on Twitter and Instagram, or email her W&

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