A paper recently published by the Rockefeller Foundation addresses the fragility, inequality, and shortcomings of the food system, while offering a roadmap for the future.
The paper, “Reset the Table,” finds that COVID-19’s impact is far reaching, cutting across many sectors of the food system from health care to education. Current responses in these sectors are proving to be rigid and poorly constructed against something as multifaceted as COVID-19.
With “40 percent of Americans unable to access US$400 even in times of emergency” and “37 million Americans already food insecure,” the food system has been stretched to its limits as safety net programs struggle to meet historic demands.
Leaders of the industry are calling upon stakeholders to rise collectively to ensure a transformative shift in current practices, policies, and systems to lay the foundation for a new representative and robust food system.
The paper suggests three substantial shifts in the U.S. food system moving forward: one, integrating a nutrition security system focusing on healthy food access; two, reinvigorating local and regional food chain; and three, building more equitable prosperity throughout the supply chain.
To fully recognize these shifts, the Rockefeller Foundation is also calling to strengthen a set of cross-cutting capabilities that have fallen short in the food system. Some of these include applying true cost accounting (considering direct and indirect costs of the food system), investing in better emergency response plans, and unifying actors across multiple sectors to secure a collaborative movement.
“Now is the moment,” says the foundation, starting with incorporating people who represent the food system into these discussions. This includes Black Indigenous people of color (BIPOC), non-governmental organization leaders, and food system activists fighting for a more just, equitable, and resilient food system.
The paper calls for federal, state, and local governments to come together to collaboratively create a new framework for a food system that emphasizes all sectors involved in the production, processing, and distribution of food.
In its final section, the paper discusses how COVID-19 has brought to light the fragility of a food system that does not promote healthy people or a healthy planet while disregarding many who are disproportionately affected.
The piece focuses on the idea that there is an optimal opportunity and an obligation to fix a broken system to ensure a brighter, sustainable future for all.