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Is the food system ‘fraying’?

  • by JW

The future of food security/nutrition, livelihoods and environmental sustainability


The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation has just produced a report looking at the pandemic’s impacts on agriculture and food systems – and in the likes of Africa, systems are particularly vulnerable:

Keeping food and agricultural systems alive: Analyses and solutions in response to COVID-19 – World | ReliefWeb


This coincides with an OECD report on similar issues:

Food systems face the triple challenge of providing food security and nutrition for a growing global population, and livelihoods to farmers and others working in food supply chains around the world, all while improving environmental sustainability.

Making Better Policies for Food Systems brings together decades of OECD research and policy recommendations on food systems… It notes that these and other topics were usually considered in isolation, rather than as components of wider food systems policies.

The centrality of food systems for the Sustainable Development Goals has led the UN to convene a Food Systems Summit in September 2021. Development of a new “food systems approach,” capable of simultaneously making progress on the three dimensions of food security/nutrition, livelihoods and environmental sustainability, will require better coordination…

Food systems face a daunting triple challenge – Modern Diplomacy


As for Europe, there are other issues, but here too, the pandemic has impacted on food chains and food security:

Fears over supermarket shortages during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic led many people to buy their food from local producers, raising the prospect of a transformation in the way people get their food in the future. But while eating locally and shorter supply chains are often viewed as a more sustainable alternative to our global food system, the reality is much more complicated, explains Dr Tessa Avermaete, a bioeconomist at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium…

Q&A: Why shorter isn’t necessarily better when it comes to food supply chains | Horizon: the EU Research & Innovation magazine | European Commission


There are other opinions, though.

It’s also about the reduced spending power brought about by the pandemic:

Overall, the biggest risk to food security is not food availability, but consumers’ loss of income. Safety nets and food assistance are essential to avoid an increase in hunger…

Food Supply Chains and Covid‐19: Impacts and Policy Lessons – Deconinck – 2020 – EuroChoices – Wiley Online Library


And others see more, not less, localisation as the answer:

The extent to which this massive, industrialized, global food system falls short became especially unmistakable in 2020. The current food system is “fraying.” It relies on the horrendous treatment of laborers, a wasteful allocation of resources, worldwide environmental devastation—and in a pinch, can quickly devolve into near-collapse of the entire system, as evidenced by the delays, shortages and pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the deepening hunger crisis

During a free, online event called Festival of What Works, which took place in November 2020, entrepreneurs from an array of backgrounds shared their success stories to demonstrate how it is possible to build and scale local food production across geography as well as institutions and create more food-secure communities…

COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of our food system — here’s how we can localize it |


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