In his message marking the World Food Day on Friday, United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, clearly declared that the day was not only a reminder of the importance of what we eat to everyone on the planet, but also “a call to action to achieve food security around the world.”
Commemorated annually on October 16, Guterres pointed out that currently, almost 40 per cent of humanity, some three billion people, can’t afford to eat healthily.
And as hunger, undernourishment, and obesity are on the rise, the economic impacts of COVID-19 “have made a bad situation even worse”, he said, noting that the pandemic has left an additional 140 million people “unable to access the food they need”.
Collective action across 150 countries is what makes World Food Day one of the most celebrated days of the UN calendar. Hundreds of events and outreach activities bring together governments, businesses, NGOs, the media, and the general public. They promote worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure healthy diets for all.
WorldFoodDay 2021 will be marked a second time while countries around the world deal with the widespread effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a time to look into the future we need to build together.
Governments, the private sector, civil society, international organizations and academia will need our help too. We need to influence what is produced by increasing our demand for sustainably produced nutritious foods, and at the same time be more sustainable in our daily actions, first and foremost by reducing food loss and waste.
We also have the responsibility to spread the word, building awareness about the importance of a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Efforts to mitigate climate change, environmental degradation, and our wellbeing, all depend on it. We need to activate a food movement that advocates for ambitious change.
An agri-food system is a complex term that may seem far from your reality, but do you know our lives depend on them? Every time you eat, you participate in the system. The food we choose and the way we produce, prepare, cook and store it make us an integral and active part of the way in which an agri-food system works.
A sustainable agri-food system is one in which a variety of sufficient, nutritious and safe foods is available at an affordable price to everyone, and nobody is hungry or suffers from any form of malnutrition.
The shelves are stocked at the local market or food store, but less food is wasted and the food supply chain is more resilient to shocks such as extreme weather, price spikes or pandemics, all while limiting, rather than worsening, environmental degradation or climate change.
In fact, sustainable agri-food systems deliver food security and nutrition for all, without compromising the economic, social and environmental bases, for generations to come. They lead to better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all.
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says agri-food systems employ one billion people worldwide, more than any other economic sector. Moreover, the way we produce, consume and, sadly, waste food exacts a heavy toll on our planet, putting unnecessary pressure on natural resources, the environment and climate.
Food production too often degrades or destroys natural habitats and contributes to species extinction. Such inefficiency is costing us trillions of dollars, but, most importantly, today’s agri-food systems are exposing profound inequalities and injustices in our global society.
Three billion people cannot afford healthy diets, while overweight and obesity continue to increase worldwide.
The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined that an urgent change of route is needed. It has made it even harder for farmers – already grappling with climate variability and extremes – to sell their harvests, while rising poverty is pushing an increased number of city residents to use food banks, and millions of people require emergency food aid. We need sustainable agri-food systems that are capable of nourishing 10 billion people by 2050.
For FAO, solutions exist. Governments, according to it, need to both repurpose old policies and adopt new ones that foster the sustainable production of affordable nutritious foods and promote farmer participation. Policies should promote equality and learning, drive innovation, boost rural incomes, offer safety nets to smallholders and build climate resilience.
‘’They also need to consider the multiple linkages between areas affecting food systems including education, health, energy, social protection, finance and more, and make solutions fit together. And they need to be backed by a major increase in responsible investment and strong support to reduce negative environmental and social impacts across sectors, particularly the private sector, civil society, researchers and
Last September, UN Secretary-General convened the very first Food Systems Summit to forge consensus on bold new actions to transform the way the world produces and consumes food, with an aim to get back on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
At the same time, the way we produce, consume and waste food is taking a heavy toll on our planet. “It is putting historic pressure on our natural resources, climate and natural environment – and costing us trillions of dollars a year”, warned the UN chief.
Reference this year’s theme that the power to change is in our hands, he spelt out that “our actions are our future”.
Last month, the world took part in the landmark UN Food Systems Summit, which set the stage to transform food systems everywhere to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The UN chief recalled that during the summit, “countries made bold commitments” to make healthy diets more affordable and accessible and to make food systems “more efficient, resilient and sustainable at every step”.
“We can all change how we consume food, and make healthier choices – for ourselves, and our planet”, said the Secretary-General. “In our food systems, there is hope”.
An agri-food system comprises all the activities related to the production, processing, distribution, preparation and consumption of food. According to FAO, that’s something we play a part in, every time we eat: “The food we choose and the way we produce, prepare, cook and store it make us an integral and active part of the way in which an agri-food system works”.
In a healthy and sustainable agri-food system, local market shelves are stocked with nutritious food, but less is wasted and the supply chain is more resilient to shocks, such as extreme weather, price spikes or pandemics – all without worsening environmental degradation or climate change.
“In fact, sustainable agri-food systems deliver food security and nutrition for all, without compromising the economic, social and environmental bases, for generations to come,” said the UN agriculture agency. “They lead to better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all.
President of Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Collen V. Kelapile, noted that the day highlights how a change in mindsets – through the power of science, technology and innovation, smart investments and cooperation – can make “hunger a hardship of the past”.
“Let us not overlook the potential behind each individual action in leading us to a future where no one goes without a meal and where our food systems work together with, not against, our planet’s ecosystems”, he said.