United States of America - Stage 1
The focus of the first-stage U.S. National Food Systems Dialogue was to identify challenges to improving the sustainability of food systems. While the discussion topics were organized around the five UN Food Systems Summit Action Tracks as outlined above, the discussions did not fall neatly into these silos. Instead, participants broadened the discussions to holistically consider challenges and tradeoffs across food systems, and goals related to sustainability and resilience. Three overarching challenges emerged: 1) information gaps about healthy diets and sustainability produced food, 2) ineq... Read moreualities, and 3) environmental degradation and climate change.
• Overall Challenge #1: Information gaps about healthy diets and sustainably produced food
Dialogue participants identified divergent and confusing information about healthy diets and sustainably produced foods as a major challenge. Some participants expressed concern that information gaps hinder uptake of healthier diets and the promotion and adoption of more sustainable agricultural production practices.
• Overall Challenge #2: Inequalities
Dialogue participants identified inequalities in food systems as an overarching challenge. Some participants identified inequality as a primary driver of disparate access and uptake of healthy diets, and as a barrier to improving the livelihoods of farm and food systems workers and expanding business opportunities in agriculture and food supply chains. Some participants expressed the view that underlying, long-standing inequalities have had a negative impact on food systems’ resilience.
• Overall Challenge #3: Environmental degradation and climate change
Dialogue participants identified environmental degradation and climate change as overarching challenges. Some participants expressed concerns about challenges to farmers and producers related to clear guidance on environmentally sustainable practices and barriers to international trade based on sustainability standards that are not based on science. Some participants highlighted challenges associated with the distribution of the costs of more environmentally sustainable production practices across the food system, raising concerns that farmers and low-income consumers could bear the brunt of potential cost increases.In all the discussion groups, participants discussed where they thought research or scientific evidence is needed to better characterize challenges and possible solutions. On the topic of healthy diets, some participants expressed the view that more information is needed on the effectiveness of consumer education and food assistance programs, including national data on the needs of food banks and their effectiveness serving vulnerable communities. In addressing inequity, some participants noted a lack of data on and models for investing in communities, including land ownership. Some participants noted evidence gaps related to environmental and carbon footprints of food and the links between environmentally sustainable practices and productivity yields.In each discussion group, participants discussed the tradeoffs that might arise in building more sustainable food systems – and the challenges of managing these tradeoffs. The types of tradeoffs discussed are well described in the discussion of food prices and whether they are too high or too low. Some participants pointed to the high cost of nutritious foods (perceived or actual) as a challenge to achieving healthy diets for all. On the other hand, some participants noted high rates of food waste and hypothesized that the low cost of food (some participants noted that food is like a “free good”) leads to people throwing it away. When discussing environmental sustainability, some participants hypothesized that food is too cheap since the price does not factor in the true cost of environmental inputs or negative environmental externalities. Some participants noted that because environmental costs are not priced into agricultural production—especially in commodity agriculture—there are few immediate financial benefits to producers who improve their practices. Some participants noted a tradeoff between affordability and wages, noting that low farm and food worker wages may increase food affordability but could adversely impact the economic livelihoods of those workers.Some participants highlighted the need to include diverse stakeholders, including environmental groups, more farmers, including more and BIPOC (black, indigenous, peoples of color) farmers, the financial sector, data scientists, land grant universities, food companies, anti-hunger groups, and media. Some participants agreed that knowledge gaps could be addressed by receiving input from different stakeholders. Read less
Action Track(s): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Keywords: Data & Evidence, Environment and Climate, Finance, Governance, Innovation, Policy, Trade-offs, Women & Youth Empowerment