From Farm to Fork: 10 actions to “fix” the global food system

From Farm to Fork: 10 actions to “fix” the global food system

June 05, 2020

From Farm to Fork: 10 actions to “fix” the global food system

To mark the launch of the Barilla Foundation strategy to manage and transform food systems in the post-COVID era, a group of experts discussed the current situation in search of concrete solutions

Experts, journalists and interested parties from all over the world took part in the webinar on June 3, 2020 entitled “Post-COVID-19. The Time to Fix the Global Food System is Now: 10 Actions from Farm to Fork.”  The occasion was the launch of document published on the same day by the Barilla Foundation. 

As pointed out by Helena Evich, an American journalist who deals with food and agriculture and who moderated the meeting, the particular moment in which the world finds itself is full of complex challenges, but it can also present a favorable opportunity to transform agri-food systems to achieve fairness and sustainability.

Ten actions for change 

We are here today to call for a real and profound transformation of the food system: from farm to fork,” began Marta Antonelli, Research Director of the Barilla Foundation, pointing out that the pandemic highlighted the fragility of current food systems in economic, environmental and social terms. “COVID-19 has amplified poverty, inequalities and food insecurity,” she continued, listing some of the problems that the pandemic has most highlighted, such as the interruption of food supply chains due to the lack of seasonal workers, the volatility of prices but also the reduced availability and access to food. 

Hence the drive to open a global dialog between the various parties and to propose a strategy to be put into practice: 10 actions to kick off concrete initiatives by everyone and at all stages of the supply chain. “We have the opportunity to start a new era and this change must begin now, we cannot go back to 'business-as-usual' as it would never overcome the fragilities that have now become so evident” she explained, before listing some of the 10 actions proposed in the document.

Health for people and the planet

The complex relationship that binds man and nature today is the basis of the pandemic that has brought the entire planet to its knees. Riccardo Valentini, a professor at Tuscia University and the RUDN University of Moscow, is convinced of this and opened his speech by remembering how the new coronavirus (and others before it) crossed the species barrier to reach humans. “Today we are in a sense too close to nature and we are exerting excessive pressure on it,” he explained. “I hope that this global experience will lead to new rules being set for the safety of food systems, a new way of relating to nature, halting deforestation and habitat destruction. And I hope that we can learn to act as a single entity rather than as individuals,” he concluded. 

Even the food choices we make every day contribute to the idea of all-round health for humans and the planet. Gabriele Riccardi, a professor at Federico II University of Naples also underscored this message. “The first step towards making the right food choices across the world is undoubtedly to inform people about the devastating impact that the wrong choices can have on people,” he began, pointing out that around 50% of premature deaths are linked to food risks, from hunger to obesity, and unbalanced diets that play a role in the spread of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. These diseases that are also important for the consequences of coronavirus infection, since people suffering from these non-communicable diseases are those most exposed to the most severe forms of COVID-19. Information alone is not enough and responsibility cannot be left to the individual. “People must be helped to make the right choices, giving them the opportunity to find healthy and sustainable food everywhere in the world,” he concluded. 

Nobody should be left behind

Agriculture must be revolutionized,” said Danielle Nierenberg, President of Food Tank, at the beginning of her speech. “The pandemic certainly presents us with great challenges but also gives us the opportunity to regenerate the current food system without leaving anyone behind,” she added. With the pandemic, people who had always been invisible and who constitute the real backbone of the food system became visible. The world has begun to understand that food can truly be a medicine and that long supply chains have many weaknesses. Citizens want attention to be paid to agri-food systems and greater equality and economic, environmental and social justice. “I am concerned about the consequences of the pandemic, but at the same time I find some of the changes that are already visible encouraging,” she concluded. 

Million Belay, general coordinator of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) spoke instead about seeds.

Seeds are the foundation of our food system, they are important for health, nutrition and also culture. The diversity that a farmer has in his field is also his source of resilience: sustainability cannot be imagined without a diversity in seeds,” he said, pointing out that due to the pandemic many farmers are struggling to gain access to seeds.

The pandemic has taught us that our lives depend on diversity, we must move towards the future from our current position with a new development model.” 


Global involvement

The role of finance in the current crisis linked to the pandemic and in the climate, which is even bigger and more current, was the topic of the intervention by Barbara Buchner, Global Managing Director of the Climate Policy Initiative. “Estimates show that 10-20 trillion US dollars will be invested in the coming months to stimulate the economy after the COVID-19 crisis. We all need to contribute to creating a more sustainable future,” he said, highlighting three fundamental actions needed to achieve the goal: investing in the right way, using financial tools and solutions to bring resources to agriculture supply chains and improving measurement. “Cooperation, particularly between the public and private sectors, and overcoming the barriers between different disciplines will be critical to building a resilient food system, which is healthy for people, but also for the planet, and that leaves no one behind,” he explained. 


Following this, Camillo Ricordi, a professor at the University of Miamipointed out that in this time of crisis we are seeing examples of how international collaboration can lead to progress in many fields. “Studying the dramatic events of the COVID-19 pandemic, elements that more or less directly link diet with the ability to face and overcome the disease have emerged,” he explained, citing for example Italian studies on the role of vitamin D, vitamin C, omega 3 and the Mediterranean diet in the current pandemic. 

In addition to these elements, the importance of remembering the motto: one planet, one health, is also emerging. We are not only talking about the diet for humans, but also about the diet for animals, plants and the environment. We are what we eat and everything is interconnected”, he added.

Towards a new food solidarity

At the end of the meeting, Stefano Zamagni, a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, spoke of a new way to deal with the dual challenge of guaranteeing food security and sustainability: an inclusive collaboration between governments, the economic and financial community and civil society. “We need a forward-looking perspective on the food system especially in low-income countries,” he concluded. “This must take into account the demographic context, economic structures and also cultural factors.”  

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