World Food Day 2021, a global event hosted annually by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), took place this Saturday (October 16).
Speaking at the celebration of World Food Day, General Manager Qu Dongyu, noted that this year’s World Food Day finds the world at a “critical moment“Despite the hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,”Over the past year, we have also witnessed the resilience and strength within each of us,he said.
Qu noted that the levels of hunger in the world are increasing. Over the past year, the number of people classified as hungry has grown to 811 million, up 161 million from 2019. At the same time, 14% of food is lost and 17% is wasted.
This disparity in access to nutrition was also noted by Pope Francis as he addressed the event. “We are currently witnessing a real paradox in terms of access to food: on the one hand, more than three billion people do not have access to nutritious food, while on the other hand, nearly two billion are overweight or obese due to a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle ”,said the pontiff.
Also speaking at the celebration, World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley stressed that a food system solution is needed to reduce food insecurity and ensure access to nutrition for all.
“We are currently facing unprecedented challenges in global food security”,he told the audience. “We will only succeed in ending hunger if we make sure our global food systems are fit for the 21st century. That’s why, at WFP, we strive to strengthen food systems to support healthy diets for all, especially the most vulnerable communities. “
“Our actions are our future”
The theme for this year’s World Food Day was “our actions are our future”. It is a rallying cry to inspire everyone to contribute to the transformation of the agrifood system.
FAO’s ambition is to support the development of a system that offers “better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life”.
Qu said the transition to a sustainable food system must “start with ordinary consumers” and the daily choices they make about what food they buy, how it is packaged and how much is wasted.
“We all have the potential to be food heroes. Our actions are our future. But it doesn’t end with you and me. The old saying goes, “We are what we eat. It is also true that the development of our children and grandchildren will also be influenced by what we eat ”,he wrote in an opinion piece to mark World Food Day.
Addressing delegates, Qu also highlighted progress made through efforts such as the United Nations Summit on Food Systems and the World Food Forum, which took place earlier this month in Rome. .
FAO has contributed to the development of a new ten-year strategic framework, defining concrete inputs. According to the organization’s estimates, up to $ 40 billion to $ 50 billion in annual investments in targeted interventions are needed to end hunger by 2030.
Targeted research and development and digital innovation to make agriculture more technologically advanced and improve female literacy rates can significantly contribute to reducing hunger. Better data, governance and institutions are also essential, FAO said.
“Together, we rolled up our sleeves to lead the implementation and drive the transformation”Qu commented.
Agri-food companies must “turn words into deeds”
But while the FAO has hailed the progress and momentum towards a transformation of the food system, some commentators have signaled that the industry must put its ambitions into actions that will support change.
Jo Raven, senior director of research and engagement at the £ 45bn FAIRR investor coalition, agreed progress has been made but insisted there was still a long way to go .
“On this World Food Day, FAO has underlined the importance of a sustainable food system to ‘ensure food security and nutrition for all’. Currently, food production contributes a third of global emissions, is responsible for around 80% of global deforestation and uses 70% of global freshwater; this demonstrates the vital need for change, as our food system cannot be safe until it is more sustainable ”, she told FoodNavigator.
FAIRR carried out a investor commitment over five years with leading food retailers and manufacturers on the protein transition, supporting the argument that a sustainable food system requires a greater focus on plants. According to the coalition of investors, it has seen a wave of climate commitments from the food sector.
This year, 68% of the companies participating in the pledge expressed their commitment to reducing emissions across their entire animal agriculture value chain, an increase from 48% over last year and to 29% in 2019. FAIRR said this indicates “real progress” in tackling Scope 3 emissions. More than half – 52% – of companies in FAIRR’s commitment now have a net zero ambition compared to just 8% (Nestlé and Amazon) in 2019.
Raven said this shows “noticeable signs of change” from food retailers and manufacturers over the past five years. “The number of companies adopting formal protein diversification goals has gone from zero to seven in three years ”, she added.
However, Raven continued: “There is work to be done to ensure that food companies put their words into action. Some key food companies are too dependent on offsets rather than tangible long-term decarbonization to meet their net zero goals and a number of companies are still not disclosing their emissions footprints in their value chains.
“On this World Food Day, FAIRR wants to see more companies setting goals for the protein transition, tackling deforestation in their supply chains, being transparent about their carbon footprint and setting science goals for the reduce. These steps will prove crucial in providing safe and nutritious food to growing populations in a warmer world and should be at the center of COP26. “