From July 24-26, 2023, Italy will host in Rome “Food System Summit +2“, the second United Nations summit on sustainable food systems. Heads of state and government from the 193 U.N. member countries are expected to attend the summit, held at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The three-day event focuses on the theme of sustainable, equitable, healthy and resilient food systems. Special focus on the relationship between climate change and food systems, undernutrition and diseases related to poor nutrition, which also affect our country.
The summit serves to create a space for discussion where participating countries assess progress since the 2021 UN Summit held in New York. This is also an opportunity to define what needs to be done to transform their respective agri-food systems. The last summit was decisive in shifting the approach from addressing only the problem of fighting hunger to an analysis of the impact the agribusiness sector has on climate, environment and society. These days the main challenge is to identify ways to achieve the ecological transition in the agribusiness sector given the changed global scenario. According to the FAO 2022 report “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World,” as a result of the pandemic and the effects of conflict and the climate crisis, up to 783 million people are going hungry, which is 122 million more than in 2019.
Transforming the way food is produced and consumed is essential for reducing environmental impacts and achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are two projects in which Fondazione Ecosistemi is also engaged with concrete actions to transform food systems. Since January 2022 has been active SchoolFood4Change (SF4C), the project that brings together several European partners to transform the current public catering system into a healthier and more sustainable one. The EU-funded project involves 3,000 schools as catalysts for the transformation of the food system, impacting 600,000 young people across 16 cities and regional governments in 12 European countries and radiating into society at large. SF4C – coordinated by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability – brings together all relevant school food stakeholders at one table: from students, parents and teachers, farmers, cooks and canteen staff to sustainable food procurement experts, dietitians and local businesses. At the heart of SchoolFood4Change has a three-pronged approach to action: innovative food sourcing, promotion of healthy diets and cooking for the health of the planet, and the Whole School Food Approach (WSFA). Among other activities, Ecosistemi facilitates and supports the implementation of the project’s innovation actions both in the Italian demo and in the cities where it will be replicated.
Buy Better Food Campaign for sustainable food on the public plate is another project in which Fondazione Ecosistemi is involved for the sustainable food transition. A European lobbying campaign focused on public purchasing of food and beverages as the main lever for the transformation of European food systems into sustainable, healthy and fair systems, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and the European Farm to Fork strategy. With other organizations involved in the Coalition, Ecosistemi shares and is committed to improving human, social and environmental health through the transformation of European agri-food systems. Among the most important tools born out of the campaign is the Manifesto with Minimum Standards for European Public Canteens with actionable proposals for minimum standards for public canteens in Europe. The Manifesto contains precise goals, bidding criteria, audits and enabling factors for seven focus areas that go beyond “green” (or environmentally friendly) public procurement: healthy food; organic and other agro-ecological practices; support for small farmers; climate action; social economy and workers’ rights; fair trade; and animal welfare.
Finally, among the activities carried out nationwide by the Fondazione are also numerous support for the drafting of environmentally friendly specifications for school, university and hospital canteens. And the establishment of the Compraverde Award for green canteens, which induces the introduction of minimum criteria in collective catering, criteria that go in accordance with the transformation of agri-food systems.
Thus, there are projects, innovations and actions that can transform the entire global food system. As WWF also argued in its report “Right Innovation, Right Effect, Right Place” these can be technological, social, legislative, commercial and financial in nature. Therefore, it is possible to imagine diverse interventions, depending on the place and context. And the summit is critical to continue to identify the right ways to achieve the ecological transition of food, to reduce environmental impacts, protect health and biodiversity.