The food systems approach: sustainable solutions for a sufficient supply of healthy food
This publication (PDF) by Wageningen Economic Research highlights a food systems approach (FSA) as a useful interdisciplinary conceptual framework for research and policy aimed at sustainable solutions for the sufficient supply of healthy food. The aim of this paper is twofold: to explain the term ‘food systems approach’ in greater detail, and to show how a food systems conceptual framework (one that is firmly imbedded in the international literature in this field) can be useful in developing an integrated international policy on food security, nutritional security and international agri-business. An FSA analyses the relationships between the different parts of the food system and the outcomes of activities within the system in socio-economic and environmental/climate terms. Feedback loops are a distinguishing factor in systems thinking: they occur between parts of the food chain (production, processing, distribution and consumption) and from the socio-economic and environmental outcomes of food production and consumption (such as food security and soil depletion) back to that production and consumption. The FSA sheds light on non-linear processes in the food system, and on possible trade-offs between policy objectives. Systems thinking also broadens the perspective when seeking solutions for the root causes of problems such as poverty, malnutrition and climate change. The framework offers at least three benefits. First, it provides a checklist of topics that should at the very least be addressed when it comes to improving food security, certainly in relation to other policy objectives. Second, FSA helps to map the impact of environmental and climate changes on food security by pointing to the various vulnerabilities of the food system. In that sense the approach can contribute to the search for possibilities for strengthening the system’s resilience to climate changes. Third, it helps to determine the most limiting factors for achieving food security, and hence identify effective interventions aimed at improving food security. These advantages make it worthwhile to adopt a food systems approach within policy aimed at contributing to sustainable solutions for a sufficient supply of healthy food in the world.