Food is much more than just what we eat. It plays a significant role in history and culture, in addition to linking individuals to their surrounding communities. But can food also be the key mechanism we've been searching for to a sustainable future on Earth?
When we address the imbalance in the way agriculture is grown, produced, and consumed, the opportunity to create food systems that end poverty, eradicate hunger, and decrease global inequality arises. Achim Steiner, the United Nations Development Program Administrator, confirms, adding, "Repurposing agricultural support to shift our agri-food systems in a greener, more sustainable direction, can improve both productivity and environmental outcomes." So when viewed from a systemic perspective, food can easily be recognized as an instrument of climate change. For food development, this is very complex because as technology evolves we gain increased potential to both localize production, which reduces global warming, as well as create decentralized food chains that increase carbon demands.
Whichever direction we go in, the reality remains that the most vulnerable communities continue to suffer from food insecurity. The World Food Program recently shared that acute hunger is at a five-year high with up to 811 million people estimated hungry. And the grim truth is this isn't necessarily due to scarcity, but rather political and logistical factors contributing to skyrocketing nutrition costs.
In a literal and symbolic sense, food is the foundation of all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). That's why many believe proper nutrition, sustainable agriculture, and ethical labor practices have to be at the center of international production goals to achieve peace, justice, and equality for everyone by 2030. But others are quick to emphasize that these goals must be developed in conversation with Indigenous peoples, youth, governments, researchers, and frontline workers in order to be effective.
Whether or not we succeed in establishing a just and sustainable food system will be dependent on getting all nations to agree on repurposing agricultural support towards regenerative mechanisms. Leading up to COP 26, the general public stands hopeful for bold and actionable next steps that boost the livelihoods of those disproportionately affected.
For more on the health advantages to destabilizing modern food chains read the article Fed Up by the United Nations Development Program and check back with Discovery for more updates.