Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

16 October 2021

World Food Day

© FAO

The future of food is in our hands

An agri-food system is a complex term that may seem far from your reality, but do you know our lives depend on them? Every time you eat, you participate in the system. The food we choose and the way we produce, prepare, cook and store it make us an integral and active part of the way in which an agri-food system works. 

A sustainable agri-food system is one in which a variety of sufficient, nutritious and safe foods is available at an affordable price to everyone, and nobody is hungry or suffers from any form of malnutrition. The shelves are stocked at the local market or food store, but less food is wasted and the food supply chain is more resilient to shocks such as extreme weather, price spikes or pandemics, all while limiting, rather than worsening, environmental degradation or climate change. In fact, sustainable agri-food systems deliver food security and nutrition for all, without compromising the economic, social and environmental bases, for generations to come. They lead to better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all. 

Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life

Why care?

Agri-food systems employ 1 billion people worldwide, more than any other economic sector. Moreover, the way we produce, consume and, sadly, waste food exacts a heavy toll on our planet, putting unnecessary pressure on natural resources, the environment and climate. Food production too often degrades or destroys natural habitats and contributes to species extinction. Such inefficiency, is costing us trillions of dollars, but, most importantly, today’s agri-food systems are exposing profound inequalities and injustices in our global society. Three billion people cannot afford healthy diets, while overweight and obesity continue to increase worldwide.    

The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined that an urgent change of route is needed. It has made it even harder for farmers - already grappling with climate variability and extremes - to sell their harvests, while rising poverty is pushing an increased number of city residents to use food banks, and millions of people require emergency food aid. We need sustainable agri-food systems that are capable of nourishing 10 billion people by 2050. 

What now?

Solutions exist. Governments need to both repurpose old policies and adopt new ones that foster the sustainable production of affordable nutritious foods and promote farmer participation. Policies should promote equality and learning, drive innovation, boost rural incomes, offer safety nets to smallholders and build climate resilience. They also need to consider the multiple linkages between areas affecting food systems including education, health, energy, social protection, finance and more, and make solutions fit together. And they need to be backed by a major increase in responsible investment and strong support to reduce negative environmental and social impacts across sectors, particularly the private sectorcivil societyresearchers and academia.  

The UN Secretary-General is convening the very first Food Systems Summit in September 2021 to forge consensus on bold new actions to transform the way the world produces and consumes food, with an aim to get back on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  

Our actions are our future

Governments, the private sector, civil society, international organizations and academia will need our help too. We need to influence what is produced by increasing our demand for sustainably produced nutritious foods, and at the same time be more sustainable in our daily actions, first and foremost by reducing food loss and waste. We also have the responsibility to spread the word, building awareness about the importance of a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Efforts to mitigate climate change, environmental degradation, and our wellbeing, all depend on it. We need to activate a food movement that advocates for ambitious change. 

What is an agri-food system?

Explore the various parts of the agri-food system to demystify all that goes into producing our food, and other non-food agricultural products, and examine the ways that we, consumers, producers, traders, can make changes to transform these systems into ones fit for the future.  

Transforming agri-food systems story series: Part 1 - Consumer behavior and collective demand

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World Food Day – It’s your day!

Collective action across 150 countries is what makes World Food Day one of the most celebrated days of the UN calendar. Hundreds of events and outreach activities bring together governments, businesses, NGOs, the media, and general public. They promote worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure healthy diets for all.

#WorldFoodDay 2021 will be marked a second time while countries around the world deal with the widespread effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic. It's a time to look into the future we need to build together.

Make #WorldFoodDay your day – share your individual action online or join the call by developing a virtual event or activity.