Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Dimensions for the future of food systems

Food systems include the governance and economics of food, its sustainability, and the processes associated with the production, distribution, and consumption of it. Their political, social, and environmental dimensions impact our natural resources, human health, and most dimensions of life on Earth. The multiple obligations of a healthy food system include feeding the planet and safeguarding land and water resources, climate change adaptation and mitigation, reducing the harmful impacts of agriculture, ensuring animal health and welfare, promoting sustainable and inclusive development.

With a view towards ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring that all people enjoy peace and prosperity, the international community has taken a holistic approach to create increasingly sustainable food systems. Food security has been a primary sector of the United Nations’ mandate through multiple organizations including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Giving all people access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food is undeniably among the first strategies to eradicate poverty. Nutrition and hence food systems play an important role in achieving all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as it both an input and an output of development.

The Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition of FAO asked contributors how value chains can be shaped in order to improve nutrition. These contributions formed the basis of this paper. Food systems are extremely complex; for the sake of brevity this paper will discuss aspects of the food system we believe to be crucial for future contexts.

Food systems extend far beyond the business perspective, and implementing a sustainable, resilient and fair food system would simultaneously improve people and ecosystems’ general health and well-being. We believe that a transformative vision of food systems is urgently needed. To articulate what we envision as a viable food system of the future, we organized our collaborative paper around a traditional agricultural value-chain, from growing and harvesting to storage and processing, transportation and trade, all the way to the consumption and health dimensions.

This paper is the result of an assignment developed jointly by the Master in Human Development and Food Security and FAO’s Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum). The assignment tasked students with scrutinizing comments received through a series of public FSN Forum online discussion and to analyze them in the context of food systems. The work also includes original inputs from the students.

Download the document