Reshaping food systems after COVID-19
This blog by A4NH-CGIAR outlines that all key dimensions of food systems are simultaneously influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic and therefore there is a need to better understand their interactions in order to identify a strategic response to reshape future food systems. The first key dimension of food systems are the external drivers, that influence global food systems performance. There are five strategic drivers that play a role: 1) Biophysical: limited possibilities of early detection of pathogens; 2) Demographic: urbanization and crowded neighbourhoods make social distancing difficult; 3) Infrastructure: rural-urban linkages are interrupted; 4) Socio-cultural: virus transmission via labour migration and mobility of people; 5) Political and economic: strong governance and temporary financial compensation needed. Dealing with the interplay between external drivers is important to enable equitable mitigation of COVID-19 effects on food systems. The second key dimension is food system components that shape interactions between food supply and demand. There are six key areas where reshaping is helpful to counteract COVID-19 impact: 1) Food production: peri-urban production could benefit from more permanent labour contracts and sustainable intensification of production methods. 2) Food trade: maintain (inter)national food trade and support regional coordination of food networks. 3) Food demand: cash transfers for income support to maintain food purchasing power. 4) Domestic food markets: critical for guaranteeing access to food. 5) Food environment: key role for state in organizing health care and food markets. 6) Consumer behaviour: support transition towards healthier and sustainable diets. Reshaping these interactions can be a helpful strategy toward equitable food demand and integrated food supply. The third key dimension of food systems are outcomes, that indicate how safe, healthy, sustainable and affordable diets can be reinforced and sustained. Food systems have to address four major outcome challenges: healthy food and balanced and sustainable diets, growing poverty may inhibit food system improvement, increasing inequality may lead to inaction, and the provision of collective services. Hopefully, food systems transformations will enter a new era of policy engagement, international alliances, and multilateral cooperation.