Why we need to talk about food policy

Food policy might seem a rather boring topic … after all, you can't eat policy, right?

Even today in the opening statements of the 43rd session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), delegates reiterated the call to focus on action over policy.

We do not disagree. Action on food security and nutrition is paramount. However, as two people deeply interested in food policy (you might even call us “policy nerds”), it has become apparent to us that food policy deserves more recognition.

So what is food policy and why is it important that we talk about it?

Let’s start with the basics...

What is policy?

A policy is a principle or statement of intent that is meant to guide decisions and achieve specific outcomes. You can think about a policy as a hypothesis (“what we hope will happen”) and a set of steps (“how to get there”).

We tend to think of policies as being related to governments. These are called “public policies”.

But it is also important to recognise that policies can be proposed or adopted by governments, companies, NGOs and even individuals. Policies can also operate at different levels: the global, national, regional, local and organizational levels.

What is food policy?

Food policy impacts on how food is produced (and what is produced), processed, distributed, purchased, consumed, protected and disposed of.  This means that we do indeed “eat and drink food policy”.

Food policies are designed to influence the operation of the food system. Food policies govern a number of areas, including:

  • Food-related industries
  • Agricultural and livestock extension
  • Food assistance
  • Food safety
  • Food labelling
  • Certification standards
  • Development assistance/food aid
  • Trade

Why should we care?

“Food” is a human right. There are few issues more important than ensuring that everyone has adequate food.  Yet, the latest available estimates indicate that about 795 million people in the world – just over one in nine – were undernourished in 2014-16..

It is the food policies that have been implemented – and not implemented – that have led to this massive and ongoing human rights violation.

The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is meeting this week and will bring together governments, civil society, the private sector, and researchers to develop policy recommendations on a wide range of food security and nutrition topics.

These recommendations have real implications for how we address food insecurity around the globe. 

During the CFS session two key issues are being negotiated:

  • Sustainable Agricultural Development for Food Security and Nutrition including the Role of Livestock
  • Connecting Smallholders to Markets

Learning about, and advocating for, good food policies is key to achieving more just, equitable and sustainable food systems.  Our hope is that the CFS will continue to put food security and the voices of those most affected by food insecurity at the centre of the policy negotiations as they work collectively to end hunger.

What to know more about food policy and food security?

Here is a video on how food policy can help to end hunger

Blogpost by Jessica Duncan and Nadia Lambek, #CFS43 Social Reporters – jessica.duncan(at)wur.nl / nadia.lambek(at)mail.utoronto.ca

Illustration:  Civil society in Canada has drafted their own food policy
Illustration courtesy:
Food Secure Canada

This post is part of the live coverage during the 43rd Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). This post is written by two of our social reporters, and represents the authors’ views only.

17/10/2016 0:00

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