Sustainable food systems don’t just help to end hunger. They can help the world achieve critical progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
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More than 700 million people, or 10 per cent of the world population, still live in extreme poverty. Sustainable food systems can contribute to the fight against poverty by creating good jobs, improving access to food, and supporting healthy communities.
About 690 million people were undernourished at the end of 2019 and absent rapid interventions, the COVID-19 pandemic could force an additional 130 million people into chronic hunger. Rebuilding our food systems to make them more sustainable, productive and resilient is essential--for solving long-term hunger challenges and managing acute shocks, like disease outbreaks and climate extremes.
Good Health and Well-being
Poor nutrition causes 45 per cent of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year. Sustainable food systems support adequate nutrition, which helps people of all ages to achieve good health.
As of April 2020, close to 1.6 billion children and youth were out of school because of the pandemic, and nearly 369 million children who rely on school meals were forced to find food elsewhere. Sustainable food systems can enable all students to have a healthy and balanced diet, which is critical to success at school.
Women produce between 60 per cent and 80 per cent of the food in most developing countries and are responsible for half of the world's food production. Sustainable food systems can empower and support women and bolster their livelihoods around the world.
Clean water and Sanitation
Water scarcity affects more than 40 per cent of the global population and is projected to rise. Sustainable food systems can ensure the sustainable use of this precious resource, while also reducing the amount of pollution in our natural water systems.
Affordable and clean energy
The energy sector is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Sustainable food systems maximize the use of clean and renewable sources of energy, reducing the food sector’s environmental impact.
Decent work and economic growth
Agriculture is the single largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for 40 per cent of the global population. Sustainable food systems can create decent jobs and support the incomes of billions of people around the world.
Industry, innovation and infrastructure
Recent innovations in climate-smart agriculture have shown that food production can deliver environmental gains, as well as social and economic benefits. Tech innovations as well as investments in food-related infrastructure are also key to improving the efficiency of the food system. By scaling up these and other innovations, sustainable food systems can deliver widespread benefits to people and planet.
Some 1.5 billion people live in households that are supported by smallholder farms; many of those households are extremely poor. Sustainable food systems can help to lift up some of the poorest of the poor, providing them with decent work, a good income and a healthy and balanced diet.
Sustainable cities and communities
Since 2007, more than half the world’s population has been living in cities, and that share is projected to rise to 60 per cent by 2030. Sustainable food systems can help to ensure that city dwellers everywhere and in particular the urban poor who have limited purchasing power, are adequately nourished.
Responsible consumption and production
Each year, an estimated one third of all food produced ends up rotting in the bins of consumers and retailers, or spoiling due to poor transportation and harvesting practices. Sustainable food systems reduce waste and spoilage, and empower consumers to make smart choices in their food shopping.
Farming directly accounts for some 17 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable food systems can reduce this impact by lowering emissions of critical climate-warming gases, including methane and carbon dioxide.
Life below water
Oceans serve as the world’s largest source of protein, with more than 3 billion people depending on the oceans as their primary source of protein. Sustainable food systems can ensure the long-term viability of the world’s fisheries, while also protecting the health of the ecosystems that host them.
Life on land
Over 80 per cent of the human diet is provided by plants. Sustainable agriculture can reduce deforestation and support healthy terrestrial ecosystems, while also providing critical sustenance to people around the world.
Peace, justice and strong institutions
Nearly 80 per cent of the world’s 155 million stunted children live in countries affected by violent conflict. Sustainable food systems can reduce critical stresses facing families, communities and nations around the globe, preparing the ground for peace and strong institutions to take hold.
Partnerships for the goals
The total amount of development assistance worldwide has trended upward since at least the turn of the twenty-first century. At the same time, we have seen a proliferation of coalitions, multi-stakeholder partnerships, and South-South cooperation. A renewed focus on sustainable food systems can add momentum to this progress, while delivering tangible benefits to people and communities around the world.