In recent decades, the world has made significant progress in improving agricultural productivity. Yet, the food systems are still out of balance. Hunger, obesity, environmental degradation, loss of agro-biological diversity, food loss and waste and a lack of security for food chain workers are only some of the issues that underlie this imbalance.
According to FAO, nearly 690 million people are hungry, up 10 million since 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic could add between 83-132 million people to this number, depending on the economic growth scenario.
Preserving access to safe and nutritious food should continue to be an essential part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for poor and vulnerable communities, who are hit hardest by the pandemic and resulting economic shocks.
It is more important to recognize the need to support the farmers and workers throughout the food system – who are making sure that food makes its way from farm to fork even amid disruptions as unprecedented as the current COVID-19 crisis.
We must help all populations, and especially the most vulnerable, to recover from the crisis, and to make food systems more resilient and robust so it can withstand increasing volatility and climate shocks, deliver affordable and sustainable healthy diets for all, and decent livelihoods for food system workers.
This will require improved social protection schemes and new opportunities offered through digitalization and e-commerce, but also more sustainable agricultural practices that preserve the Earth’s natural resources, human health, and the climate.
Everyone has a role to play, from increasing the overall demand for nutritious food by choosing healthy, to not letting sustainable habits fall by the wayside, despite these uncertain times.
National and local government, private sector, and civil society need to make sure that food systems grow a variety of food to nourish a growing population and sustain the planet, together.