Local food initiatives could be one of the solutions to the hunger being suffered by large parts of the world’s population, writes Jonathan Wheeler.
They are needed because the world’s food system is broken and not serving its population well, said one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject.
Professor Jose Graziano da Silva, Director of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation from 2012 to 2019, was speaking at a Feed Beacon event staged by Nottingham University.
That disfunction was best exemplified by the fact that 820 million people were starving, while 830 million people were obese, and a further two billion people over-weight.
The irony was that the world produced enough food, but 30 pr cent of it was wasted, mostly in harvesting, storage and transport.
Prof da Silva led Brazil’s Zero Hunger programme, a scheme he suggested might provide a template for other countries.
Under it, schools and public institutions committed to buying a portion of their food from local suppliers:
“In some schools the children of farmers were eating the food their own family had grown."
He suggested many of the solutions lay in the cities where the majority of people lived and food was eaten:
“We need to do much more at a local level and in cities to provide locally produced, fresh food.
“One of the best parts of the Zero Hunger programme in Brazil was enabling schools to buy locally produced food.
“Instead of the entire system being centralized, we de-centralized it and gave the money to the schools so they could buy in their own neighbourhood – sometimes from the families of their own students”.
Other benefits of the programme included that the children liked it and learned more about food production:
“It is also a way to stimulate local farmers. Don’t think of them as a problem; think of them as a solution. They can produce the fresh food their communities need."
He suggests the world needs to examine fresh food sources, including a greater variety of livestock, and the oceans that cover 70% of the world’s surface but provide 2 per cent – 3 per cent of the food.
At the moment 80% of the world’s diet is based on just five food types – wheat, maize, soya, grass and potatoes – and these receive 100% of current research funding.