Food systems

Understanding Food Systems

Food systems around the world are facing a triple challenge: ensuring food security and nutrition for a growing population, supporting the livelihoods of millions of farmers and others in the food chain, and doing so in an environmentally sustainable way. Moreover, across these three dimensions food systems should become more resilientFood systems are thus central to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, but it has often been difficult to develop better policies for food systems. 

In addition to these long-term challenges, COVID-19 created unprecedented stresses for food systems. Food supply chains had to cope with bottlenecks in farm labour, processing, transport and logistics, as well as momentous shifts in demand. As livelihoods were disrupted, many households experienced difficulties accessing safe and affordable food. Although food supply chains in OECD countries adapted relatively quickly, the pandemic underscores the importance of further strenghtening resilience.

A holistic approach to food systems starts from the realisation that there are synergies and trade-offs between the different objectives associated with the food system. Effective policy solutions should consider these spill overs, in order to develop coherent policies. However, making better policies is often made complicated by disagreements over facts, interests, and values. Achieving better policies requires overcoming these obstacles.  

Because of the importance of food systems for the Sustainable Development Goals, in 2021 UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres convened a UN Food Systems SummitA wide range of OECD data and analysis can inform policy discussions on food systems.