As an expert in the field of sustainable food systems, I have seen firsthand the impact that our current food system has on the environment, economy, and society. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines a sustainable food system as one that not only provides food security and nutrition for all, but also ensures that the economic, social, and environmental foundations for future generations are not compromised. This means looking at every aspect of the food system, from growing and raising food to processing, distributing, and even discarding it. It also involves considering the connection between these processes and the people and resources that contribute to and are affected by the food system. In short, a sustainable food system is one that provides nutrition and food security for all without harming the well-being of people or the planet. In the United States, food security is defined as “access by all people at all times to sufficient food for an active and healthy life”.
However, our current food system uses a staggering 22 percent of the country's energy and is responsible for at least 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Clearly, there is a need for change. The environmental objective of a sustainable food system is to achieve a neutral or positive effect on the natural environment. This means reducing our carbon footprint and minimizing negative impacts on ecosystems. The American Public Health Association (APHA) defines a sustainable food system as one that not only provides healthy food for current dietary needs but also maintains healthy ecosystems that can continue to provide food for future generations with minimal negative impact on the environment. But sustainability is not just about the environment.
It also has economic and social dimensions. The economic objective of a sustainable food system is to benefit everyone involved in the system. This includes farmers, workers, and consumers. It also means considering the costs and labor involved in implementing sustainable practices, such as new animal welfare standards on farms. While there has been a decline in overall food insecurity in recent years, the number of undernourished people worldwide is still higher than it was in 1970.
This is despite numerous national and international efforts to reduce food insecurity. Clearly, there is still much work to be done. So what exactly is a “food system”? It is a broad term that encompasses everything related to the production, distribution, and consumption of food. This includes not only the physical processes involved but also the policies and infrastructure that support them. As an expert, I am often asked about how and where students can learn about sustainable agriculture, sustainable food systems, and sustainability education. The ENG reports on these topics provide valuable information for those interested in learning more about this important issue. The social aspect of a sustainable food system involves equity and fairness for all participants.
This means providing living wages to food system employees, tax benefits for governments, and benefits for companies participating in the food system. It also means ensuring that food is safe, nutritious, affordable, and available to all. While individual efforts such as recycling and reducing food waste are important, they are not enough to create lasting change. Fundamental changes are needed in the way we produce, distribute, and consume food. This includes not only changes at the individual level but also changes in policies and infrastructure. In conclusion, a sustainable food system is one that takes into account the economic, social, and environmental impacts of our current food system and works towards creating a better future for all.
As an expert in this field, I am committed to promoting sustainable practices and educating others about the importance of a sustainable food system.