Agriculture and food production concept with tractor machine silos and irrigation system.

Global Food Systems: The Way Forward

The slogan to “stop food waste” has been gaining more and more traction as our population continues to grow to the detriment of our environment. So let’s get to the root of this global issue.

When we discuss global food systems, what exactly are we talking about? What is the problem with how we are currently producing and consuming food?

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines food systems as “the range of activities undertaken to procure food. These include on-farm production; post-harvest handling; processing; distribution; marketing; consumption; and waste management.”

But when we look at the current state of affairs, it is clear that our current way of producing and consuming food does not meet the needs of all people or protect the environment upon which it relies. So it is clear that we need a revolution of our food systems: the way we grow, harvest, process, transport, sell and consume our foods. A change is so dramatic that previous versions of food systems are unrecognisable.

The food system is a system of systems.

Global food systems are complex and multifaceted. It encompasses agriculture, fisheries, animal husbandry, manufacturing, distribution, retailing, consumption, and waste management. Food systems are responsible for the production and consumption of food and include all the inputs, processes, outputs, and outcomes related to the full range of food activities. This includes what we consume, how we produce it, and its impacts on our environment. As a result, food systems have a tremendous effect on how we live our lives.

It is also a system that has been failing humanity for decades. In 2016–18 alone, nearly 800 million people were undernourished, and 2 billion suffer from micronutrient deficiency (hidden hunger). More than 1 billion tonnes of food — one-third of all produced — goes to waste every year while billions go hungry or malnourished. In addition, excessive emphasis on short-term financial gains has led to widespread ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss.

We are using our finite resources unsustainably to produce food.

Globally, we waste a third of all food produced and the natural resources involved in its production. There is such an overwhelming abundance of food available in our markets today. The problem is not in the supply but in the distribution and access to food. It has been estimated that we could feed 10 billion people today with the amount of food we currently produce globally.

Today, the world produces 1.5 times the calories needed to feed every person on the planet. Yet, more than 800 million people are chronically undernourished, and more than 2 billion do not have access to healthy diets and safe drinking water. At current production rates, the world will be out of oil in about 50 years. We have already lost 30% of the arable land on this planet, and we lose another five basketball courts worth every minute. 

We have created a culture where convenience and taste have become more important than nutrition and sustainability. Ignoring ugly foods for the more aesthetically pleasing ones is one seemingly small contribution you make to the ever-growing problem of food loss. What can you do to change this?

Contribute to food sustainability in your little way.

One of the most important things to remember is that although we can’t change the world overnight, every little bit counts. (And why wouldn’t you want to help when you get more out of it?)

When you think about food sustainability, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the issue of food waste. Food waste accounts for about 10 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions and majorly contributes to climate change. It’s also a significant issue in developed nations, where people have enough money to go grocery shopping whenever they want and can buy more than enough food for themselves.

Food waste is a global issue. According to the United Nations, one-third of all food produced for human consumption goes to waste — about 1.3 billion tons of food wasted every year. In Singapore, more than 300 million kg of food is wasted each year – enough to feed 870,000 people for a year.

Food waste occurs along the entire food supply chain, from harvesting and processing to transport and retail. While some food is lost due to unavoidable factors, most are lost because of overproduction and poor management along the supply chain.

To get your food waste reduction efforts started, give them a chance instead of considering aesthetically filtered fruits and vegetables, meat, and seafood as nothing but garbage. While they may not look perfect, they still offer you the nutrients you enjoy from their counterparts.

What is needed is nothing short of transforming our global food systems.

The world is at a crossroads: either we will continue in the same unsustainable path we have taken for decades, or we will not let this moment go to waste and seize this opportunity to change course and create transformative change: the kind of change that will allow us to feed everyone on the planet today, without sacrificing our future.

The current global food system is broken. It is failing our farmers, it is failing our consumers, it is failing our ecosystems, and it is failing our children, who are inheriting an overburdened planet. However, we are gradually making progress. Join us in our advocacy when you join a group buy in our surplus food deals app.

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