What is a sustainable food systems approach?
WHY DO WE NEED ANOTHER KNOWLEDGE HUB?
The Sustainable Food Systems (SFS) Approach Knowledge Hub is a knowledge platform providing policymakers and other food systems stakeholders, easy and user-friendly access to all materials produced by the One Planet Network Sustainable Food Systems Programme, related to the SFS Approach. This knowledge Hub will help countries to develop and implement National Pathways for Food Systems Transformation and other international, national and sub-national commitments, by increasing their technical capacities and knowledge on how to adopt a SFS approach.
“A sustainable food systems approach considers food systems in their totality, taking into account the interconnections and trade-offs among the different elements of food systems, as well as their diverse actors (from national to subnational), activities, drivers and outcomes. It seeks to simultaneously maximize societal outcomes across environmental, social (including health) and economic dimensions.”
One Planet network’s Sustainable Food Systems Programme
An Integrated Approach
A Sustainable Food Systems Approach considers all relevant causal variables of any given food systems problem, and all social, environmental, and economic impacts of possible solutions. It investigates underlying causes, as well as possible interlinkages and unforeseen consequences. While there may be potential tensions between key priorities of food systems, such as inclusive poverty reduction, increased agricultural productivity, improved nutrition, and enhanced environmental sustainability, there are also opportunities to simultaneously accomplish multiple objectives.
A Sustainable Food Systems Approach can help identify such trade-offs and synergies. It can help facilitate the coordination needed to manage trade-offs and possibly turn them into “trade-ons“ or synergies, by choosing the right mix of policies and practices. For example, this can lead to the development of dietary recommendations that – in addition to health and nutritional aspects – also take into account the environmental, economic, and social sustainability dimensions.
A Sustainable Food Systems Approach to policymaking and implementation is the design and/or implementation of integrated interventions planned to optimize societal outcomes (environmental, social and economic), resulting from enhanced cooperation between food systems actors and addressing the drivers and trends of both unsustainable food production and consumption (UNEP, 2019).
Example of taking a SFS approach
Through enhanced multi-stakeholder collaboration, governments, farmers and other food systems stakeholders can develop and implement integrated food strategies to achieve simultaneously economic, environment and social outcomes.
For instance, by diversifying food production with nutrient-rich foods and supporting environmentally friendly agriculture practices. In particular, traditional or indigenous crops and techniques can help reduce biodiversity loss and carbon footprint, which can bring environmental and economic benefits while also contributing to food security and good nutrition of consumers.
In recent years, we have witnessed the emergence of Sustainable Food Systems Multi-Stakeholder Mechanisms (SFS MSMs) at national, regional and sub-national levels. They are participatory decision-making mechanisms that bring together all food systems actors to advise, develop or implement policies that promote sustainable food systems. Evidence shows that SFS MSMs that are truly inclusive, enjoy political and financial support, and have adopted good governance principles and processes are well-positioned to embody the SFS approach and develop holistic food policies that better meet the needs of people and the planet.
EXAMPLE OF ACHIEVEMENTS OF A SFS MULTI-STAKEHOLDER MECHANISM: THE GENT EN GARDE FOOD POLICY COUNCIL
Thanks to the SFS approach adopted by the Gent en Garde Food Policy Council (FPC), the city of Ghent is championing local, sustainable and tasty food. The aim is to achieve “green wins” all along the local food chain: from production, processing and distribution to consumption and waste management