Connecting the dots of food, climate and health: EAT food forum 2018

Connecting the dots of food, climate and health: EAT food forum 2018

in News

How do we feed the world with zero land expansion and ocean depletion? What is good food? How can we end malnutrition? How can new technology save our food system? These were just some of the questions raised during the EAT Food Forum 2018. Chris Claes, Executive Co-Director of Rikolto, attended the event, which was held in Stockholm, Sweden, on 11 and 12 June.

The Forum welcomed more than 600 delegates from 50 countries and a wide range of organisations: the World Bank, the World Business Council, multinational companies such as Nestlé, Coca Cola and Unilever, and experts from government, UN institutes, cities, academia, the world of philanthropy and civil society, as well as innovative new businesses and even the culinary community. The main theme was “the broken food system of our world”.

Climate change and health risks: today’s global food system is broken for people and planet

Over 800 million people suffer from undernutrition, one-third of all food produced is lost post-harvest or goes to waste after being prepared, and unhealthy diets have become a leading risk factor for an epidemic of chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, thereby placing an enormous and rapidly growing burden on healthcare systems. In short, today’s global food system is broken at both people and planet level.

The EAT Stockholm Food Forum 2018 deliberately addressed this alarming issue and invited the delegates to step out of their comfort zone in exploring a range of solutions available for achieving healthy and sustainable diets for a growing global population.

We need to make sure small-scale fisherfolk and farmers are at the centre of the solutions we put together.

Gilbert Houngbo President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development

Chris Claes, Rikolto's Executive Director, draws attention to the close link between Rikolto's Food Smart City programme and the points raised at the Forum. “It will not be possible to resolve health issues and climate change unless we succeed in developing sustainable local food systems all around the world. The Food Smart City programme is all about that! In this global programme, there are five focus areas: inclusive business, changing consumer preferences towards healthy and nutritious habits, setting up sustainable local food policies, healthy and sustainable catering at schools, and ensuring food safety.

Another interesting aspect of this year's Forum was the interest in drawing attention to food waste. In this context, Chris points out: “I was particularly inspired by the many start-ups that focused on creating value from food waste. I really think this could be interesting, especially if we link it with youth employment. Why not set up an investment scheme for young people who want to start an innovative business to turn food waste into healthy meals, for example?”

Unfortunately, Mother Nature has not yet set up her back office to send us her invoices.

Sunny Verghese CEO of the OLAM Group and Chair of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development

The true cost of food

How we grow, process, transport, consume and waste food is also driving our global environmental crises. The agricultural sector is the single biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and a major contributor to deforestation, species extinction, and the depletion of both marine systems and freshwater resources.

Chris: "Representatives from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development acknowledged that the global food system is broken, which must have surprised most of the audience. Having admitted that, they also showed interest in calculating the real cost of food, taking into account the consequences for climate change, obesity, etc. The model they came up with monetises the social and environmental costs of food, which could eventually lead to one single sustainability score for food products, rendering the different sustainability labels redundant. This would be a huge step towards changing the food system. Although the model is not finalized yet, and the business community has not yet taken tangible action to implement the model, it is a promising development that large businesses in the agricultural sector are moving towards more sustainability. So, the shift in mindset has already started!"

If we can convey the message that being healthy and sustainable is fun, if we can truly make those things easy, and if it’s popular enough that it’s a party everybody wants to come to, then we’ll be moving down the road towards making healthy and sustainable the new normal.

Dr. Howard Frumkin Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington School of Public Health

Editor: Görkem Türer, communication intern at Rikolto