As the impacts of COVID-19 have expanded from immediate healthcare needs to our societies and economies, the resiliency and inefficiencies of global, regional, and local food systems have the potential to become another major consequence of the pandemic. The World Economic Forum (WEF) looks at the urgent actions necessary to secure food systems.
It is predicted that an additional 135 million people could face acute food insecurity by the end of 2020. Frailties in the production and supply of food could be further exacerbated by the potential for weather-related shocks, locust infestations in a number of regions, millions of jobs being impacted across the agricultural value chain, resultant food price spikes, and financial losses impacting on hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized local organizations that are critical to the integrity of food supply chains across the world.
The ongoing impact of COVID-19 on peoples’ livelihoods across all sectors will have an increasingly debilitating effect on their ability to buy healthy and affordable food. This will be particularly felt in underserved communities, where households can spend up to 80% of their income on food, or where hundreds of millions are affected by the school closures that disrupt vital school feeding programs, which can be a significant – and sometimes the only – source of nutrition for young children. In short, this means the reality of food and nutrition insecurity around the world could soon be on everyone’s plate.
Resilient and equitable food systems
It is critical, therefore, that the private sector, governments, international organizations, and civil society come together to address the current and emerging health, economic, environmental, and societal crises as they relate to the building of more resilient, healthy, sustainable, and equitable food systems.
According to WEF, three sets of urgent actions are needed.
- Enhance the resilience and health of existing food systems.
- Enable recovery towards building up of healthy, sustainable, inclusive, and efficient future food systems.
- Promote enablers, including finance, data and digitalization, and public-private collaboration, as vital in unlocking resilience to and recovery from COVID-19’s impacts on food systems.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of our food systems, and the extent of our reliance on them to deliver the nutrition we need. With those fragilities now clearly on everyone’s plate, how we come together to build food systems that are inclusive, sustainable, healthy, and resilient to a range of shocks is more important than ever. The World Economic Forum sees a renewed commitment to multistakeholder action to solve this challenge – not just for the duration of the pandemic, but for the longer-term transition of food systems that is to come.