Written by Beth Blissman
During the past several months of the global pandemic known as COVID-19, I’ve heard disturbing reports of tons of dairy products being dumped and food being wasted because supply chains were interrupted. Meanwhile, food insecurity in the US – and globally – is increasing rapidly. The decades-long decline in hunger in the world seems to have ended, and the challenge of obesity (and related health concerns) in developed nations rivals that of malnutrition in less developed nations. These are some of the concerns reflected in “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020: Transforming food systems for affordable healthy diets,” a report launched from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 14 July 2020.
The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 (SOFI 2020) Report, is an annual FAO flagship publication It provides new estimates and projections of what the world may look like in 2030 if trends of the last decade continue, and offers new information regarding some of the impacts of COVID-19 on food security and nutrition.
The webinar to launch the 2020 FAO Report was considered a Special Event of this year’s High Level Political Forun (HLPF). In addition to the FAO, it was co-sponsored by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Program (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
After Máximo Torero, FAO Chief Economist, presented key findings of the SOFI 2020 Report, , the many panelists appreciated the continuing analysis of the cost and affordability of healthy diets around the world, which can vary greatly by region and in different development contexts. They also lifted up new data that presented the “hidden” health and climate-change costs associated with our current food consumption patterns, as well as the cost savings if we shift towards healthy diets that include sustainability considerations. Finally, panelists commented on various policy recommendations to transform current food systems and make them able to deliver affordable healthy diets for all, which is an essential piece of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #2 –Zero Hunger. (The entire webinar can be viewed here: at https://youtu.be/ZCWNaelUfsQ )
So, in light of SOFI 2020 and this new information, what might those of us in the US wish to do? Here are several ideas to ponder:
According to drawdown.org, a research organization exploring what we need to do to reduce and/or sequester (i.e. capture) carbon emissions, over 87 Gigatons of CO2 would be reduced from 2020-2050 if those of us in wealthy countries would turn to a plant-rich diet and reduce food waste 50-75 percent. Their data show that up to 35 percent of food in high-income economies is thrown out by consumers, yet in low-income economies relatively little is wasted at the household level.(See https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/reduced-food-waste)
Another option to help reduce food waste is to grow a garden – even city-dwellers can practice some container gardening, and tending to plants encourages skills of attention, observation and relationship-building with other species of life upon whom we depend for our nourishment.
If you’re into following national-level political action in the US, get to know Congressman Jim McGovern (2nd District of Massachusetts). He’s the Co-Chair of the House Hunger Caucus, and represented our government well at the launch of the FAO report. I’ve noticed that he’s quite active on Twitter, so you can follow him at @RepMcGovern and check out #EndHungerNow. His website is mcgovern.house.gov
Another pathway linking global with local / regional action is to self-educate about food policy and how it is formed. Rising numbers of local food policy coalitions and councils are emerging across the US and around the world. Resources here include the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI, website: http://www.ifpri.org ), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA, website: http://www.usda.gov), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA, website: www.fda.gov), and the Congressional Hunger Center (CHC, website: http://www.hungercenter.org). Also, within academic settings, rising numbers of sustainable agriculture and food justice programs are joining environmental studies as pathways to education and action.
Finally, I’m feeling particularly inspired to participate in “Loretto’s Journey from Passion to Action,” a new online course in fall 2020 to apply permaculture design principles to building healthy food systems. Watch for more information from the Loretto Prop 10 committee, or contact me for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.