Food Tank: From Crisis to Possibility; Five Aspirations for our Food System

Transforming food systems is no easy feat. The system and its failings are intricately linked with some of the toughest challenges of our time: climate change, poverty, misaligned and outdated policies. Narrowly targeted interventions will not bring about the kind of change we need. To achieve systems transformation, we need to think at the systems level. This means addressing the root causes, consequences, solutions, and interconnected challenges all at the same time.  And taking a systems approach is hard, made more difficult by our own institutional structures, biases, and histories. So where do we begin?

We can start by grounding ourselves in five bold aspirations for what our future food systems can and should be. Drawn from the new report “A Nourishing, Regenerative Tomorrow,” a synthesis of visions for the future of food systems from 1300 teams in 120 countries, these aspirations can be our guideposts as we build a food system that nourishes all people and the planet.

Food as Community

The global food system, while highly efficient, has obscured the journey from farm to plate, disconnecting many communities from their food culture and traditions. In the future, communities can be connected to the food system – and each other – through the development of food hubs and education centers. Locally grown, indigenous foods can and should be readily available and affordable to consumers.

Food as the New Economy

The food system has historically put efficiency and profit over the health of people and planet. In the future, the exchange of food-related goods and services can contribute to the vibrancy of our communities in a food economy that values human and planetary health first. That will mean changing the calculus that drives decisions about what food is grown, processed, and sold, ensuring food is priced according to its true environmental and health impact.

Food as Reconciliation 

Structural inequities built into our food systems present one of the biggest challenges to building an inclusive and nourishing future. More than three billion people across the globe, many of whom come from marginalized groups, cannot afford a healthy diet. These are often the same people who produce our food. In the future, our food systems and the choices we make within them can help to heal the wounds of the past. They can preserve and promote indigenous practicesreform land ownership policies, and protect human rights.

Food as Medicine

The industrial food system is hurting human health. Over 1.9 billion people are overweight or obese – including a staggering 38 million children under five. Unhealthy diets increase the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and as we’ve seen in the pandemic, make us much more vulnerable to infectious disease too. Our future food systems can be the source of health instead, by incentivizing behavior change for better diets and scaling personalized nutrition programs to protect health and improve health outcomes.

Food as Resilience 

Soil erosion, pollution, loss of biodiversity, and industrial farming are some of the biggest factors contributing to climate change today. In fact, global food system emissions threaten to drive warming beyond 1.5 °C. In the future, foods that are good for our planet can be affordable, accessible, and desirable for consumers. This is a double win, because nature-positive food systems that use land more sustainablypromote soil health, and eliminate waste are more resilient to shocks, be it a pandemic or a climate emergency.

When you dig into these aspirations and the solutions that can help us achieve them, your mind starts to shift from despair at the state of the food system to excitement about the future. Some ideas proposed by the food system visionary teams are known but underutilized, like advances in soil health and behavior change strategies for healthier eating. Others are revolutionary, like 3D printed food and ingestible sensors to track nutrients consumed, absorbed, and required to ward off disease. All these things are possible. What’s missing is the commitment to put them to use in the real world.

This is an excerpt picked from the FoodTank website. To read the full article click here


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