What is a food system?
Tackling hunger means getting comfortable with complexity
Don’t ever let anyone tell you hunger is a simple problem.
Our food comes to us through complex systems that stretch from land preparation to seeds, from production to harvest, and onward to storage, transport, processing, packaging, marketing, consumption . . . and even the bits we throw away.
The quality, efficiency and sustainability of our food systems are what make the difference when it comes to creating a world where everyone is well nourished. At any point in the system, things can go right or things can go wrong.
For this reason, the theme of this year’s World Food Day (16 October 2013) is “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition.”
Many farms today are emphasizing quantity over quality. This not only prevents many people from enjoying a diverse and wholesome diet, but also means that some 60 percent of the world’s ecosystems are degraded or used unsustainably.
Better food systems would include an increased emphasis on growing nutrient-dense foods while getting the most food from every drop of water, plot of land, speck of fertilizer and minute of labour.
According to materials produced by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), consumers are part of the food system too. By making intelligent choices in the supermarket, by educating children about nutrition, and by wasting less of the food we bring into our homes.
Strong political leadership is also advocated, so that all policies are weighed on the basis of their potential impact on human nutrition.