30 August 2018. Wageningen Economic Research and the Food and Business Knowledge Platform facilitated a multi-stakeholder discussion on the practical use of the food systems approach during the WUR SDG conference
- The food systems approach: sustainable solutions for a sufficient supply of healthy food
- A food systems approach (FSA) is a useful interdisciplinary conceptual framework for research and policy aimed at sustainable solutions for the sufficient supply of healthy food. A new report about this approach, entitled “The food systems approach: sustainable solutions for a sufficient supply of healthy food”, was recently published by Wageningen Economic Research and commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.
- The report1 may serve as a useful resource for all stakeholders interested in food systems approaches (FSA), and in how these could help strengthening the effectiveness of their work. The report is part of a broader learning agenda: the aforementioned Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs intend to pilot the food systems approach as a tool for policy planning in the course of 2018, following up one of the main conclusions of the IOB Review of Dutch food security policy 2012-2016.
Summary of the reportA food systems approach (FSA) is a useful interdisciplinary conceptual framework for research and policy aimed at sustainable solutions for the sufficient supply of healthy food. 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.