In 2017, the United Nations body that assesses scientific knowledge related to the world’s food security and nutrition, the High Level Panel of Experts of Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) of the Committee on World Food Security (CFR), sanctioned a definition of food systems still used by FAO. «All elements (environment, people, inputs, processes, infrastructure, institutions, etc.) and activities involved in the production, processing, distribution, preparation, and consumption of food, and the outcomes of these activities, including socio-economic and environmental outcomes».
Everyone can see how much this agglomeration, which far surpasses the concept of food alone, if nicked in even one of its parts, may be vulnerable to a general collapse due to unsustainable pressure from a steadily growing urban population, overexploitation of natural resources, increasing climate variability, environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity and social inequity. Add to this political uncertainty, market instability, and social insecurity due to the war that affects price increases, supply disruptions, and rising product prices: in short, new threats to food security, nutrition, natural resources, and social inclusion.
So, how to take action to protect food systems and, consequently, take care of «all the elements» mentioned by the HLPE?
Undoubtedly, through the integration of existing national programs and strategies and intergovernmental cooperation aimed at introducing a systems approach to food policy and, through continuous cross-sectoral dialogue involving all actors in food-related decision-making all while taking concrete steps to operationalize the goals set by individual governments and the 2030 Agenda.
All true. Yet, a strategy aimed at taking care of the food system cannot disregard an important transformative factor, largely independent of governmental and institutional actions: a change of mindset, which can only come from the spread of a broader awareness about food.
For there is never a chance to renew and regenerate a system — whether natural or human — without acting on each of the elements that are mutually interconnected and interact with each other or with the external environment. These elements include people: they are us, with our consciousness (or unconsciousness) about the enormous power of food as a factor of integral regeneration.
My experience leads me to state with conviction that even a single encounter, even a casual one, can bring about a radical change in our mentality, in the way we relate to food and everything related and unrelated to it.
It is true, however, that if you want to act on a large scale, you need to join projects that act precisely to concretely change mindsets, enhancing them.
The goal of the European project SWITCH, funded by Horizon Europe, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is to change the food systems of European citizens towards a just, healthy, and sustainable food transition through knowledge and innovation.
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