UN reports urges radical transformation of food systems

08 July 2020


Food systems

A new report published by the United Nations (UN) calls upon governments and other actors to undertake urgent measures to radically transform food systems, to ensure endemic food security and nutrition. This comes ahead of the 2021 Food Systems Summit, which will convene world leaders on the burgeoning issue. The COVID-19 pandemic makes this situation even more urgent.

The report, entitled Food security and nutrition: building a global narrative towards 2030 is based on the analysis of food security and nutrition concepts, outcomes, drivers and critical policy directions that are vital for meeting Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) 2 targets and the entire 2030 Agenda. Cole notes, “the timing of this report is crucial, as the state of global food security and nutrition is alarming, with an increased number of undernourished people and the spreading of all forms of malnutrition, including overweight and obesity.”

Recent data on food security and nutrition show that the global community is falling short on Agenda 2030 targets, especially the SDG on achieving zero hunger (“SDG 2”), with an estimated (pre-COVID-19) 821 million people experiencing chronic undernourishment and with poor nutrition contributing to nearly 45 percent of the deaths in children under the age of five.

Furthermore, Cole adds, “it is vital that the global community seizes this moment to adopt new frameworks for food security and nutrition which are centred on the right to food and on a sustainable food systems approach.”

The report recommends four policy shifts to achieve more sustainable food systems. They include:

  1. Support a radical transformation of food systems from production to consumption, including measures that empower the most vulnerable and marginalised food system actors; promote regenerative production practices, such as agroecology; and support the development of diverse distribution networks, such as territorial markets.
  2. Take into account the interconnectedness of different systems and sectors, including measures that improve coordination across sectors – such as the economy, health, environment, agriculture and food – and take interaction of food systems with other systems into account; explicitly address climate change across all aspects of food systems; and learn from crises, such as COVID-19, to build more resilient food systems.
  3. Address hunger and all forms of malnutrition, including through measures that support healthy, nutritious and sustainable food choices; and address all forms of malnutrition, including hunger, obesity and overweight, and micronutrient deficiencies.
  4. Develop context-specific solutions, taking local conditions and knowledge into account, including measures that tackle the distinct challenges that arise in diverse types of rural and urban contexts; and address the unique challenges posed by conflict situations.

“These policy shifts will make the radical transformation of food systems possible and will get the global community closer to achieving the SDGs, especially SDG 2,” explains Jennifer Clapp, HLPE Steering Committee’s report Team Leader. “The HLPE report outlines a set of concrete recommendations necessary to make these policy shifts possible.”

In addition, the report calls for the evolution of the concept of food security and nutrition to recognise the centrality of “agency” and “sustainability”, along with the four other recognised food security dimensions of availability, access, utilisation and stability. Agency, according to the report, refers to the capacity of individuals or groups to make their own decisions about what foods they eat, what foods they produce, how that food is produced, processed and distributed within food systems, and their ability to engage in processes which shape food system policies and governance.

As the world gears up for the 2021 Food Systems Summit, which will gather the world’s heads of states and governments, the HLPE calls for widespread adoption of policies to achieve sustainable food systems.

There has meanwhile been a growing sentiment across industry that F&B stakeholders including producers, farmers and processors also crucially bear the brunt of safely maintaining food security, an “essential” response to the pandemic. Despite a series of government handouts, many feel “in crisis” and on the verge of collapse, arguing that aid packages fall short of mitigating the level of financial support needed to safely sustain the food supply chain during these unprecedented times.


Published by foodingredientsfirst.com on June 25, 2020
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