Importance of Sustainable Food Systems during COVID-19

In a time when food production has been exponentially increased as compared to the past years, what comes as a surprise is that food insecurity among people has also seen a major boost. Despite the increased production of foodgrains to meet the increasing demand, we have never witnessed food insecurity of this level before. Surveys indicated how some households reduced the size of meals or skipped some altogether because there was not enough money for food. In a country where this problem was already severe and extremely prevalent, what aggravated the situation, even more, was the COVID- 19 pandemic.

The whole world seemed to have come to a standstill when the first wave of Covid hit us. The fear and the uncertainty of the situation made people apprehensive. Nationwide lockdowns were observed in many parts of the world which indeed were necessary to curb the spread of this virus. We witnessed how the situation got out of control despite these measures. What ensued was a sudden rise in the unemployment rate. People involved in the service sector were especially hit hard when they lost their jobs. It is important to understand how this affected India, a country that already had high unemployment rates and a population struggling with food security. Needless to say, COVID-19 ended up pushing many vulnerable families over the brink when it came to having food security.

This unfolding crisis had a detrimental impact on the existing food systems and ended up disrupting the supply chains that were in place. This majorly reduced people’s ability to access food. With the slowdown of the economy at the global level, we observed a high price being placed on food along with reduced income for people which rendered a vast number of people helpless and unable to buy food. Along with the inflating prices and the challenges to food distribution, the quality of food was also severely affected. The major disruption in the food systems gave way to widespread hunger, varying from moderate to severe.

Now that we’re hit by the second wave of Covid-19, which is an unfolding crisis, it is extremely important to move towards sustainable food systems, which will guarantee food and nutrition security to people and ensure that they get healthy diets. “ No Hunger” is a Sustainable Development Goal, and it is high time that we learn from the past situations and work for the realization of sustainable food systems.

In 2020, we came across images of people hoarding food, empty shelves at supermarkets, and long queues outside food banks which were a clear indication of how important food systems are to sustain our lives and dysfunctional they have become especially during these unprecedented times.

But what we must also realize is that the challenges of the food system are not just limited to the availability and distribution of food. Malnourished and immuno-depressed people have been placed at a much higher risk and along with this, being obese or overweight has also led to increased vulnerability to diseases, either directly or indirectly. These issues stem from having an improper, imbalanced diet, which are all challenges to a sustainable food system.

As we continuously look for solutions to rebuild the society and its systems after the collapse we have faced due to this pandemic, it is necessary that we take steps to ensure food security and adopt sustainable food systems. Ensuring the efficiency of food distribution channels would go a long way in this regard. Continuous steps to encourage and empower small-scale producers will also help us in achieving this target, especially in rural areas. Curbing the overconsumption of highly processed food especially in developed countries and improving access to food in developing ones will serve as tools to look into the aspect of an imbalanced diet.

Thus, we must make conscientious efforts to adopt a sustainable food security system that will ensure food and nutrition security to each and everyone, while successfully moving towards the Sustainable Development Goal of “ No Hunger.”

by ASMITA SOOD — jinnie sood

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