Today 3.1 billion people globally can’t afford a healthy diet, defined as a diverse range of nutritious foods that meet energy requirements and provide the right quantities of essential micronutrients. And food insecurity is still accelerating.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN’s State of Food and Nutrition Security in the World (SOFI) report for 2022, 216m people faced crisis levels of acute food insecurity in 2021. Experts expect the situation to worsen, with forecasts suggesting that by 2024 400m people globally will face starvation.
Recent years have seen extreme stressors impact food availability. Conflict, climate volatility and extreme weather, the global COVID pandemic and the sharp global economic downturn that is now starting to be felt are ‘significant external drivers’ that have had profound consequences for food affordability, according to WBCSD.
“The 2022 State of Food Security & Nutrition in the World report highlights that the increase in global hunger in 2021 reflects growing inequalities across and within countries. Around 2.3 billion people in the world were moderately or severely food insecure in 2021, and 216 million people facing crisis levels of acute food insecurity. The situation is expected to significantly worsen in the coming months due to disruptions in the food and energy systems, notably due to the war in Ukraine as well as climate change,” explained Emeline Fellus, Director, FReSH, WBCSD.
But the business council says it has a different vision: a world where ‘nutritious food’ is ‘available and affordable for all’. As the global food crisis worsens, it is clear we are some way from realising this as a reality. But WBCSD, alongside nine leading agri-food businesses, has released a new paper examining what needs to change to improve the availability and affordability of good nutrition.
“In the face of this worsening context, we must more than ever must take bold actions to transform our food system to ensure access to all to healthy diets, produced responsibly within planetary boundaries,” Fellus argued.
So, what ‘bold actions’ would help make adequate nutrition accessible and affordable?
The WBCSD and nine leading companies operating in the food and agriculture value chain have released a new paper that outlines four key areas for scaling business action to increase food affordability.
The paper includes business case studies highlighting how various stakeholders along food and agriculture value chains can collaborate to improve the affordability and accessibility of food. These include:
- Strengthening climate resilience by developing new climate-resistant crop breeds and using a diversity of crops and breeds that are the most adaptable to a changing climate.
- Leveraging innovation capabilities and know-how along the food supply chain, empowering farmers to adopt better farming and post-harvest techniques that will positively impact yields and reduce food loss and waste. Companies also contribute to deliver safe, affordable, nutritious foods to consumers in urban and rural areas by seeking efficiency in manufacturing and distribution channels.
- Collaborating and advocating for the consumption of nutritious foods to support a healthy diet within a sustainable food system.
- Investing in programs that go beyond price reductions and help to improve the livelihoods of populations vulnerable to economic instability.
Griffith Foods, one of the industry partners that participated in the study, highlighted the importance of collaboration and innovation in the work it is already undertaking to address food affordability. “By collaborating with others through our role as a product development partner, we aspire to deliver nutritious food that is accessible and affordable to a growing population. We are proud to contribute to the insights shared in this report on food affordability and look forward to the ongoing opportunities it brings to learn from one another,” said Dave Bender, Global Vice President, Research & Development at Griffith Foods.
Likewise, Bayer stressed the importance of seed innovation to address food waste. “Bayer’s vision is health for all, hunger for none. In our Vegetable Seeds business, we work toward that vision in many ways. For example, our team has developed and offered smallholder growers seed innovations that improve life shelf, making it easier for them to distribute. Bayer is also proud to have recently joined the Zero Hunger Private Sector Pledge, committing to investing US$10m in research and development by 2030,” Inci Dannenberg, President Global Vegetable Seeds, Bayer, added.