Kicking Around in the Wreck

Fanzo, Jessica C.

Food systems have been dramatically transitioning over the last fifty years. At a macro-scale, food systems worldwide have shifted from predominantly rural, subsistent systems to more industrialized and consolidated systems [1], paralleling demographic, epidemiological, and nutrition transitions [2]. Urbanization, global trade, and interconnected food supply chains have accompanied these transitions [3], increasing the diversity of food flows worldwide. While the world churns and food systems sufficiently do their primary job in aggregate—delivering calories to feed 8 billion people—insidious, destabilizing political and civil wars, competition, and fractured geopolitics are showing the fragility of global food systems. We witnessed similar food crises in 1972–76, 1998–2001, 2007–08, 2010–11, and most recently, in 2020–2023 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia war in which food prices and inflation escalated, with severe impacts on low-income countries and resource-constrained households that depend heavily on imported food [4]. These constraints have resulted in a five-year upward trend in the number of people who go to bed hungry (approximately 10% of the world’s population). To make matters worse, 3.1 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet [5] that meets their nutrient needs and is health protective. Overlaying these compounded crises is something much more insidious: a rapidly changing climate barreling down on us [6] and a slow recovery from a global pandemic that shuttered the world [7]. Weather and climate fluctuations across time scales–from days to centuries–impact food systems.


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Academic Units
International Research Institute for Climate and Society
Published Here
May 29, 2024