When Covid-19 hit just over a year ago, we were primarily focused about the health impact of the pandemic. It didn’t take very long to realise that efforts to tackle the virus were going to challenge our food systems in ways unimaginable just months earlier. You may remember seeing empty store shelves, while others, possibly for the first time, experienced the struggle of feeding our families. The pandemic also made visible what we already knew but chose to overlook about our food systems: that they are failing to enable affordable, healthy diets through agricultural systems that are contributing heavily to climate change and that are built on unsustainable and deeply inequitable foundations. This sobering wakeup call may end up being a silver lining in an otherwise dark period in human history.
While the pandemic led to a staggering rise in food insecurity and malnutrition, we also witnessed great resilience. We saw people coping, adapting, and innovating in very difficult circumstances. Think about all the ways you’ve adapted. At all levels of our food systems, approaches evolved to reach markets, help parents feed their children, preserve jobs and livelihoods across the value chain, prevent food waste and protect the health of frontline workers.
2021 is a crucial year to make changes to food systems—so that they become more equitable, sustainable, nutritious, resilient, and inclusive. As vaccines roll out, people across the world can now see light at the end of the tunnel—although much more needs to be done to ensure that all people can access effective protection against Covid-19—as a result, governments and businesses are starting to focus on recovery, on “building back better.” In addition, this year, the United Nations is convening its first ever Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), bringing together heads of state and leaders across sectors. The summit is a unique opportunity to foster global agreement on the food systems challenges we face and the solutions, and to drive evidence-based actions that will lead to the transformation that is needed.
Yet, a food systems transformation is only as effective as the perspectives beckoning for it are diverse. Now is the time to engage in the process to ensure that all ideas and perspectives are considered. Now is the time to bring forward food systems solutions from efforts and contexts across the world, and to share what we have learned from our experiences and innovations, including from responding to the Covid-19-induced food crisis. The summit has set up many ways to engage and to share experiences and expertise. You can join the Food Systems Community—a platform to engage other stakeholders. There are national and independent dialogues in which all stakeholders can input. You can also share your ideas on the five Action Tracks online.
In addition, enabling diverse voices to position their ideas, innovations, and initiatives for food systems transformation is supported through a novel program offered in support of the UNFSS: Food Systems Game Changer Lab (FSCGL)
(FSCGL). The Lab is an opportunity for you to turn your insights/ideas for food system change from this pandemic year or even before into action.
Here’s why it’s essential that YOU join the Food Systems Game Changers Lab: understanding something as complex as our food system requires an inclusive approach. It’s not enough if only scientists, or producers, or governments are engaged. Because food systems touch and engage all people on the planet, we need engagement from everyone and a structured process to knit together diverse contributions into actionable agendas for change.
Tying together diverse views and solutions doesn’t work if we don’t have a facilitated process to formulate open, transparent partnerships grounded in equity. That’s why the FSGCL offers a 4-phase process to group people with initiatives for food systems change into like-minded cohorts (“Solution Cohorts”). The FSGCL facilitates those cohorts through a process of matchmaking and immersive work post-summit. Participating in the FSGCL will provide you with access to a network of other problem-solvers, who are equally passionate about transforming food systems; mentorship to sharpen your ideas; and support in getting your ideas executed to improve the food systems we live and operate within.
If you yearn for a new type of collaboration and a shared journey to impact, this participatory and inclusive process is for you. Let’s work together to achieve the transformation of our food systems and #GoodFood4All– enter your submission by 25 May!