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FAO shares recipe for more food-secure cities

An overhaul of food systems – production, distribution and consumption – to make them more sustainable, will be needed to meet the food needs of a growing and ever more urban world population. That will mean attacking food waste, which is especially high in urban areas.

This was one of the take-home messages from FAO at last week’s Global Forum for Food and Agriculture in Berlin, Germany.

Redistribution of unused, edible food that is still rich in macronutrients was the topic of a well-attended expert panel discussion organized by FAO on Friday 15 January. Panel members, who brought together practical experience from all over the globe, agreed that until consumption patterns change, food losses and waste will remain a reality.

The situation is handled differently in different regions of the world. In many countries, so-called foodbanks collect safe food – which would otherwise be discarded – from stores and food distributors. In others, such as India, NGOs often handle already cooked food surpluses.

FAO started to assess the scope of the issue two years ago but, as Senior Nutrition Officer Warren Lee noted, many countries are not tracking this kind of information. Solid data could point to soft spots in food supply chains that need attention.

Providing healthy diets expanding urban populations will require stronger links between rural producers and urban markets, and food systems that are more socially inclusive, environmentally sound and less wasteful. This was the message of Maria Helena Semedo, FAO deputy director-general for natural resources, in her opening remarks for FAO’s high level panel later on the same day.

With urban areas expected to host 70 percent of the world’s population by 2050, compared to the current level of 50 percent, she said, “the proportion of the hungry living in urban areas will also increase.” Panelists discussed field examples from a range of countries including China, Sweden, Sri Lanka and Zambia.

FAO Deputy Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia Raimund Jehle spoke at a panel discussion on the topic of rural-to-urban migration. He pointed out that rural out-migration was less of a problem in countries where agriculture is characterized mainly by family farms rather than large-scale agro-holdings.

At the Global Forum’s “cooperation fair”, the FAO stand was a place for visitors to see the Organization’s latest publications and address their questions directly to technical experts.

19 January 2016, Berlin, Germany

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