By Alana Craigen and Katharina Davis, UNDP
As we are entering the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the strength of our food supply chains is being put to a test. Again. How many of us, perhaps for the first time, have had to carefully budget food for a period of several months? The pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of all participants along the food supply chain – from farmers, to processors and households.
This opens a window of opportunity for shifting our food system onto a more resilient, sustainable and circular pathway: One where food loss and waste are designed out of the system, food by-products are transformed and used at their highest value, and food production improves rather than degrades the environment.
This shift is urgent. Cities will be home to 66% of the global population and consume over 80% of the world’s food by 2050. In the meantime, one-third of the food produced for human consumption is being lost or wasted globally – an equivalent of 1.3 billion tonnes per year. This waste does not include the resources that went into producing it, such as land, water and energy. While cities will require us to as much as double food production over the next three decades, they also hold the key to unlocking the potential to not only satisfy this increased demand but also improve livelihoods, citizens’ health and the natural environment. A win-win.
Ideas for what cities can do to fight food loss and waste
There are a number of high-dividend actions that countries can take under the Paris Agreement to fight food loss and waste through circular action. Here, we would like to hone in on what cities can do to strengthen food security (and improve livelihoods) and how creating circular food systems can help achieve this:
These are just a few examples to provide inspiration and ideas. The current intersection of ongoing crises – public health, climate and economic - provide us with an incentive to seek transformational change solutions in our food systems. This is an opportunity that should not be missed. The World Cities Day gives us a chance to reflect on the pivotal role cities can play in reimagining the way we produce, distribute and consume food in a bid to help tackle food loss and waste and strengthen food security. Our current food system is no longer fit for the society and planetary needs of the 21st century – it is ripe for disruption and cities can lead the way.