WHAT IS MEANT BY FOOD SECURITY AND FOOD ACCESSIBILITY?
Food security is not new, and history shows us that thousands of years ago the Chinese and the ancient Egyptians would release food supplies from central storage during periods of famine.
Since the start of the 2019-2020 global pandemic, most of us have been aware of the term “food security”
but what does it mean and how can we have secure food?
WORLD FOOD SUMMIT DEFINITION
Food security is a measure of the availability of food and individuals’ ability to access it. It has been re-defined several times but certainly, at the 1996 World Food Summit, it was stated as follows:
Food Security -“exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient,
safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
As we all are trying to cope with the pandemic, the UN is warning about the growing threats to food security. The pandemic is unusual as it threatens the entire globe and its economic system. Fears of food becoming unavailable in certain areas can lead to some governments threatening to restrict exports resulting in the knock-on effect across the entire food chain.
Owing to Covid-19 food prices have risen, by the end of 2020 it is estimated that the number of people globally lacking access to sufficient food will double.
Food security faces several challenges across both production and consumption which research will be essential to solve.
FOOD IN THE UK
As the UK went into lockdown, scenes of empty supermarket shelves shocked consumers, which demonstrated the potential danger of our Just-in-Time (JIT) systems. Empty shelves were the result of a JIT food supply chain that was pushed to breaking point by shoppers adding a few extra items to their trolleys. For the first time in years, the fragility of our food supply chain was exposed, and the UK found itself in a precarious position.
Having 47% of our food supply chain originating offshore leaves the country vulnerable to food nationalism.
Some key food producing countries have threatened protectionist food policies to safeguard their own supplies.
Ongoing work and effort behind the scenes attempt to devise solutions for addressing the issue of food security. For example, the government has established Global Food Security (GFS) – a UK cross-government programme on food security research with an aim of “sustainable, healthy food for all”. The cornerstone of their research is established within the parameters of interdisciplinary and whole system approaches, allowing for co-ordination of scientific research across departments and agencies, research councils and Innovate UK (the UK’s Innovation Agency). GFS via its programmes aims to provide a platform for working in partnership with UK wide stakeholders.
ONE OF THE CHALLENGES IS HEALTHY FOOD
Many countries are struggling with a double burden of hunger and undernutrition whilst dealing with increased overweight and obesity issues. Globally there are now more overweight individuals than underweight, and it is estimated that the cost to the world economy for obesity is $2 trillion, whilst, at the same time, more than two billion people lack vital micronutrients which has been clinically shown to dramatically reduce their life expectancy.
Obesity is a “growing” problem in parallel with hunger
Covid-19 is unlikely to be the last major test of our food systems.
Some consider that there are 5 threats to the UK’s food security any of which could leave shelves bare again. These include but are not limited to Brexit, Climate change, Geopolitics, Economic shocks and Agricultural disease.
Europe provides the UK with almost a third of its food and 40% of its fruit & vegetables, according to the Food Foundation. The pandemic has highlighted our dependence on the EU. To do nothing simply spells disaster.
If food demand continues to grow as projected, by 2050 we would need 120% more water, 42% more cropland, lose 14% more forest, and produce 77% more GHG emissions. Even with yield gap closure through sustainable irrigation, we would still need 56% more water, 5% more cropland, lose 8% more forest and produce 42% more GHG emissions.
Inevitably, we will need to use every Agri-technology available, alongside best practice farming to sustainably increase production; but this must be accompanied by changes to food demand including measures on both consumption and waste.
Equally, there are thought to be 5 key considerations for increasing UK food security:
1) Domestic production (urban horticultural production is potentially untapped potential)
2) Reduction of food waste – almost 1/3 lost in supply chain
3) Demands for labour
4) Diversification of markets
5) Change consumption patterns – seasonal eating reduces dependence on imported goods
A MAJOR IMPACT CAN BE MADE BY ADOPTING URBAN FOOD SYSTEMS
Helping to ensure positive outcomes for health and sustainability from the rapid trend of urbanisation and to do so in the context of food poverty is vital. With consideration given to transitions in nutrition, it is even more essential to understand food demand and its provision in cities, the demands on local resources, and the role of new technologies in urban agriculture.
GBS believes it can help make a positive impact on food accessibility, food security, and on health
via its modular units – this in sustainable ways through the use of renewable energy solutions that can
help achieve produce 365 days a year.
This is a global issue which we all need to address. Undoubtedly vertical and urban farming alongside so many of the latest and contemporary technological improvements which Agri-tech supports, can and will indeed make a real difference.
Together we can make a positive impact!