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Systemic change essential to address global food insecurity

2 December 2019

Cardiff University’s Professor Roberta Sonnino has warned that national governments must scale up and scale out successful systemic food innovations to combat global food insecurity.

During her keynote address at the United Nations’ (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) International Consultation on the Urban Food Agenda in Rome, Professor Sonnino highlighted the urgency of systemic food thinking.

“It is vital we recognise that the most advanced examples of best practice in systemic food thinking – such as integrated food policies and circular food economies - have developed in urban areas. We must understand why that is and why systemic thinking and creative practice haven’t emerged in other areas. Until we do that, we have no hope of breaking down the barriers to these innovations being adopted and implemented elsewhere.

“We must create an enabling environment for communities and community leaders to act – with knowledge and confidence – to transform food systems at a local level ensuring food security for the future.”

Professor Sonnino, Professor of Environmental Policy and Planning at the School of Geography and Planning, addressed a diverse audience of private, public and third sector representatives at the Consultation in Rome. Attendees included delegates from national and sub-governments, city networks and alliances, researchers and subject specialists alongside stakeholders from commercial organisations, civil society and global initiatives.

The Consultation consisted of several keynote presentations, interactive roundtables and plenary discussions with the aim of identifying good food system practices; identifying the challenges and gaps that persist in bridging national and local food policies; and developing mechanisms and strategies to stimulate well-functioning, inclusive and efficient food systems.

On returning to Cardiff, Professor Sonnino said: “Ensuring food security and nutrition is vital - socially, economically and environmentally. I firmly believe that a creative and enabling food policy and environment is an investment in future human and environmental health. We must improve the communication, collaboration and cooperation between national and local governments to help achieve this aim and our focus must be on production and knowledge exchange, infrastructural investment and the introduction of legislative and regulatory measures. This will help solve the problems we face today but also create the resilient and sustainable food systems we need to achieve #ZeroHunger and protect future generations.”

Professor Sonnino is an internationally recognised authority in food geographies and an advisor to the European Commission as well as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. Her research expertise includes local food systems, public food procurement and urban food governance.

Earlier this year, the FAO launched its Urban Food Agenda to guide UN efforts, investment and interventions on urban food, tackling issues of sustainability and insecurity. Professor Sonnino was an integral part of the development of the Agenda. Read it in full for more information on the FAO’s ambitions to effect real and lasting change and achieve the target of #ZeroHunger by 2030.

Urban Food Agenda - Leveraging sub-national and local government action to ensure sustainable food systems and improved nutrition.

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