How to Radically Re-Imagine Food System

For decades, our food system has developed in silos, lacking coordination with other sectors. While our policies are designed to provide cheap calories, they can lead to diet-related diseases. Our production systems are also largely inefficient and contribute to environmental concerns such as climate change and biodiversity loss. These issues require radical re-imagining. Here are three approaches to addressing them. Considering all of these factors, we can develop solutions and create a healthier future.

Challenges

The Rockefeller Foundation launched a global call for proposals to re-imagine the food system. More than 1,300 teams responded, with a final selection of 79 semi-finalists and 10 bold ideas. The Foundation awarded $200,000 to each winner. The proposals address a range of issues, from food sovereignty on a Native American reservation to promoting a plant-based diet in metropolitan Beijing. Here are three key ingredients to consider for successful reforms.

Food systems are deeply integrated and interdependent, requiring effective coordination and adaptation to changes in the marketplace. In order to become sustainable and productive, they must be resilient to change, and this means embracing both technical agro-logistical and organisational change. To meet these goals, researchers must draw on a variety of disciplinary approaches and draw upon both short and long value chains. The researchers use a multimodal approach, including critical discourse analysis.

The report makes important recommendations for policy makers, decision makers and actors in the private sector. It also highlights the role of agriculture in food security. Globally, population growth is outpacing economic growth, causing challenges for urban populations. Food systems need upgrading and urban-rural linkages must be improved. In addition, urbanization is causing pressure on land and resources. Developing an inclusive food system is essential to a vibrant economy.

Solutions

We need to radically re-imagine our food systems to end hunger and support biodiversity and community well-being. The problem is that while there are many ideas for transformation, there is also much disagreement over the solutions and future we envision. But we can agree that a radical transformation is necessary for food systems to recover from the harms caused by colonialism and extractive development. Rapid changes can also be coopted by powerful elites or technocratic agendas.

We must also radically transform our food systems to support sustainable diets. These new diets must be accessible, nutritious, economically fair, culturally appropriate, and work within the limits of our planet. By taking a holistic view of our food systems, we can find solutions that will work for everyone. There are several Continuing Education credits available for those who want to dive deeper into food system transformation. Thought leaders are also present to inspire and educate.

The growing power of corporations has profound implications for our economy, politics, and governance. With vertical and horizontal concentration in the agri-food sector, new digital technologies have ensconced industrial food systems and impacted national and global governance. We know that world’s largest corporations now have market values exceeding the GDP in many countries, and they are also key players in global food governance. The Big Six firms that controlled agricultural inputs in the early 2000s have evolved into just four giants.

Approaches

While bold developments have been happening on various fronts, we need ambitious action to accelerate progress. We need to connect agendas, fill in gaps, and seize opportunities to reimagine food systems. Let’s examine some examples. For example, consider the Rosebud Indian Reservation, which spans 2,000 square miles and has only three grocery stores. Although it has plenty of local farms, commodity crops, and abundant wildlife, it is largely underutilized. Nevertheless, this small community has been living off of the proceeds from its lucrative commodity crops for decades.

As climate change becomes more prevalent, food is at risk. With rising temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events, the food supply chain is under serious threat. Fortunately, the possibilities for creating new food systems are endless. Here are three approaches to reimagine our food system:

Commons-thinking includes more than the formal commons. It extends to the sociality of commoning, where communities must be active collaborators. Commons can be depleted, abused, and stolen. We need to protect the commons for future generations. It’s important to note that each of these approaches may be radical and non-ideological, but they are both possible and essential.

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