This Friday, October 16th, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is observing World Food Day, which coincides with the 75th anniversary of the organization’s founding. The day – themed by the FAO as “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together” – is prompting the staging of events in some 150 countries across the world.
World Food Day this year arrives as the COVID-19 global health crisis is giving world leaders cause to reflect on those things that are truly cherished and, in fact, are among our most basic needs. These uncertain times have prompted many in the world to rekindle their appreciation for a thing that some take for granted and many go without: food.
Being observed by farm organizations, schools, businesses, civil society and governments, World Food Day features a wide variety of activities online, including discussion groups, lectures, field days and knowledge sharing forums.
Food is the essence of life and the bedrock of cultures and communities across the globe. Preserving access to safe and nutritious food is – and will continue to be – an essential part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for the poor and vulnerable communities which are being hit hardest by the pandemic and resulting economic shocks.
The FAO – and SfL – are using this day to recognize the need to support the farmers, ranchers and front line workers throughout the food system who are making sure that food makes its way from farm to fork at a time when it’s more important than ever, even amid disruptions as unprecedented as the current COVID-19 crisis.
In recent decades the world has made significant progress in improving agricultural productivity, especially here in the United States. Even though the world’s farmers and ranchers now produce more than enough food to feed everyone, our food systems are out of balance. Hunger, obesity, environmental degradation, loss of agro-biological diversity, food loss and waste, and a lack of security for food chain workers are only some of the issues that underline this imbalance.
The numbers shared by the FAO and the World Food Programme are frightening. More than 2 billion of the world’s current population of 7.8 people do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food. 690 million people are hungry and 265 million across 55 countries now experience acute hunger requiring urgent food, nutrition and livelihoods assistance. The global population is expected to grow to almost 10 billion by 2050, significantly increasing the demand for food.
Also distressing is the FAO’s finding that about 14 percent of the food produced for consumption globally each year is lost before reaching the wholesale market.
If our food systems are not transformed, undernourishment and malnutrition will greatly increase by 2050. Those consequences could worsen due to income inequality, unemployment, or poor access to services. More than 3 billion people in the world lack access to the Internet, most of them in rural and remote areas. Smallholder farmers need greater access to innovation, technology, finance and training to improve their livelihoods.
SfL joins the urgent call for global unity to make food systems more resilient and robust so they can withstand increasing volatility and climate shocks, deliver affordable and sustainable healthy diets for all, and decent livelihoods for food system workers.
As countries begin to develop and implement COVID-19 recovery plans, the opportunity exists to adopt innovative solutions based on scientific evidence so the world can strongly rebuild with improved food systems that are more resistant to shocks. Towards this end, SfL is laying plans to host a series of Future of Food System Dialogues, a new path for SfL’s ongoing contributions to the United Nations and preparation for the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit next September in New York.
Through these dialogues SfL and our collaborating partners will seek input from farmers, agricultural value chain partners and food systems stakeholders on strategies to produce high quality, nutritious food; protect the environment; improve resource efficiency; deliver ecosystem services; and most importantly ensure profitability.Our farmer ambassadors will then bring the results to the experts leading the five Action Tracks for the Summit.
Just as we embrace and “all tools in the toolbox” approach to farming, so too do we embrace multi-stakeholder collaboration. The co-joined hunger, health and climate challenges the world is facing today are real and require integrated systems solutions which start with abandoning the single issue, siloed management approach to problem solving. The time for action is now. Please join us in identifying and advancing pragmatic transformations in the food systems that will benefit farmers, people and the planet.