With 196 countries affected, the coronavirus pandemic is on track to reshape the economy and society on a global scale. Health systems are naturally the focus of COVID-19 conversations as the first line of defence in tackling this pandemic and rightly so. However, we must also recognise the role of food and food systems - not only as vital systems facing serious challenges at the moment but also as a determining factor in how well we recover.
As such, we've pulled together a number of thought pieces highlighting the impact of COVID-19 on food, food systems and more.
In this Q&A, UN Special Envoy Agnes Kalibata highlights how COVID-19 has brought greater urgency to the work of the UN Food Systems Summit and why food system reform will look different from community to community.
COVID-19 has disrupted private food supply chains and the public support systems but it has also triggered creative and entrepreneurial innovations to get food to those who need it. Author Corinna Hawkes asks: "do these innovations tell us anything about what is possible and beneficial for food systems transformation towards nutritious, healthy diets for all?"
The Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI) has developed a framework to identify action (and inaction) by food and beverage manufacturers in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
"We need to act now to avoid the worst impacts of our efforts to control the pandemic," says Secretary General Antonio Guetteres in a new policy brief. Without immediate action, mitigation measures to control the pandemic and its economic consequences could disrupt food systems and cause a global food emergency.
"We must take this opportunity to rethink the way we produce, distribute and eat food in order to help build a healthier and more sustainable world," says authors as they identify three actions to kickstart the change process.
"Nobody can exit this crisis alone. We must all build solidarity and cooperation to create the necessary conditions to recover and prevent future crises." Authors explain how vital role of GAFSP to help governments effectively respond to food security amid COVID-19.
"COVID-19 outbreaks in many Asia Pacific countries happened during the harvest season and the lockdowns imposed... have dramatically affected our livelihoods and incomes," says Esther, Secretary General of the Asian Farmers' Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA). In this blog, Esther details the challenge faced by smallholder farmers across Asia and how they are working to overcome them.
"The lockdown is taking a wrecking ball to supply chains and destroying demand, and yet we have virtually no real-time data about food shortages, food reserves, food price spikes, people missing meals, and kids losing drastic amounts of weight. More urgently, specific data could help for a quick response to the looming hunger and malnutrition crisis that many experts predict is coming," says Authors. This blog post highlights the launch of new Food Systems Dashboard to for informed decisions in the lead up to the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021.
A synthesis of recent reports – UNICEF discussion paper, 2020 Global Nutrition Report, 2020 Global Report on Food Crises – and what they tells us about the impact of coronavirus on food insecurity around the world.
To better understand how people are experiencing and adapting to COVID-19 impacts on food environments, UNSCN conducted an online survey to capture experiences from from 15 - 30 April 2020 from 118 countries. From increased food stockpiling to changes in accessibility at point of purchase, check out the findings of this survey.
"I believe it is imperative that we work across different paradigms to find the right solutions, even if this means seeking consensus across apparently competing paradigms, such as sustainable intensification vs. agroecology," says Echeverria. Author discussed the need to successfully intensify agricultural systems sustainably. The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture Intensification (CoSAI) will help promote policy, financial, institutional and technical innovation in agricultural systems to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.
"The problem for decades now has been and remains distribution and sharing ... communities or individuals need to have control and power over how the food system is created and that system needs to be accountable to the most vulnerable," says Michael Fakhri, new United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.
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