COVID-19 pandemic offers rare chance for food systems transformation
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruptions of social interactions, affecting both the supply and demand for food. These disruptions to jobs, income and food supply magnified and exacerbated existing inequalities. While the emerging urban middle class suffered greater income losses, the poor and vulnerable in rural and urban areas experienced the worst livelihood impacts. Many social programs, including cash transfers, nutrition and education were interrupted, delayed, or halted, setting back decades of process in reducing poverty, hunger, malnutrition and illiteracy. While efforts have been made to address these inequalities, they are likely to persist, as the global vaccine rollout is disproportionately delivering doses to wealthy countries and relatively well-off individuals.
Research from IFPRI and our partners over the past year has confirmed these impacts, but it also has illuminated the possibilities for addressing many of these longstanding problems. Instead of incremental changes to food systems, lessons from COVID-19 provide a unique opportunity for real structural change that can make these systems more efficient, resilient, healthy, sustainable, and equitable. The pandemic is far from over, but as we look toward the future, policymakers must aspire to more fundamental changes in the food systems needed, leveraging multi-sectoral action and adapting to multiple shocks—disease, climate, economic and conflicts.
Photo credit: Njeri Mwangi/Reuters