Food for Earth is Food for Health
No matter which belief we have, which culture we embrace, or which side of the world we live in: we all share one shot, one life, and the common desire for every individual on Earth is to make the most of it.
Between living and surviving there is a huge difference. A difference that is punctuated by external factors, like accessing the essentials (enough food, enough water), quality of life (good quality of food, water, air, nutrition, health care), the health of the surrounding environment (both natural environment and community), and economic prosperity. But it also involves internal aspects, such as living in harmony with ourselves, preserving our mental wellbeing, being happy and fulfilled.
These are all aspects that for too long have been considered as isolated pieces of life, standing autonomously on their own. Until the pandemic came along, showing us that by removing a single pawn, the result is an unstoppable knock-on effect, just like in dominoes.
Embracing a One Health Approach means realizing that physical health is strictly connected to mental health, that community wellbeing is embedded in the wellbeing of plants, animals, and natural resources on Earth. It means linking together individual and social aspects of life, human and nature rights, business and ecology, politics and landscape. Restoring sustainability in a holistic sense and recognizing the deep interconnection of all the aspects of life is the turning point for true, long-lasting regeneration.
How can we achieve a fairer and healthier world if not starting from global agri-food systems?
Still, in the 21st century, nearly 11 million people, one in five deaths globally, happen due to unbalanced food choices.
We have realized the high price for human and planet health due to unsustainable agri-food practices, a price that eventually turns out to be even economically unsustainable. The massive use of pesticides, herbicides, and antibiotics have not only contributed to the current contamination of our soils, water, and oceans, as well as land degradation and biodiversity loss but have also impoverished human health and nutrition. If we are what we eat, we shouldn’t be surprised that we are also plastic, toxins, and chemicals.
Antibiotic resistance causes approximately 33,000 deaths a year in the EU, reveals the European Commission, costing our health system €1.5 billion a year.
April 7 of each year marks the celebration of World Health Day, a day when the whole world reflects on key public health issues. Given the context of the emergency in which we are living and the increasing risks of food insecurity affecting the global society, we decided to recognize and acknowledge the invisible strings at the basis of Sustainable Development: People, Planet, Prosperity, in a roundtable collecting the voices of different stakeholders. In only one hour, which you can re-watch here,
we touched on the synergy between food choices, healthy food, and mental wellbeing, thanks to the significant contribution of Eve Turow-Paul, founder and executive director of Food for Climate League. But we also investigated the connections between food and justice, the implication of poverty in food apartheid, and the consequences of systemic oppression due to the presence of the superb Mark Brand, Chef, an activist on Food Justice, and founder of A Better Life Foundation.
We heard the optimism behind the technological innovation applied in the food system with Danielle Gould, founder of Food Tech Connect, who also shared the questions that innovation businesses have to answer: how do we think more holistically about innovation? How can we ensure innovation to be delicious, diverse, biodiverse, and just? How can we tackle both business structure and food supply chain? How do we build more resilient business models?
And we also engaged the company perspective, thanks to the participation of JC Dalto, President and Managing Director at Dole Packaged Foods Americas.
Four experts with four different perspectives, reunited in a conversation with activists, researchers, medical doctors, nutritionists, and ambassadors of regenerative food systems.
What were the main points that emerged during the conversation?
- Sustainability is within everyone’s reach
“People generally believe that sustainability is out of their reach as too expensive, and inaccessible. Sustainability is invented by indigenous people, conceived to be far more affordable.” — Eve Turow-Paul
Our world is obsessed with food. However, we end up eating only a limited variety of crops. We should ask ourselves more often: what can I do in my daily life, no matter the geography, gender, or status, to move the needle towards fairer and just food systems? Building healthier and more regenerative food systems is the responsibility of each of us, from farm to fork, even in the way we choose food, cook, and eat. This does not mean that access to fresh foods, especially in food apartheid, is not an issue and that the large distance in the food supply chain between producers to consumers is not affecting the quality of the final products or even taste. But even opting for small corner shops rather than big supermarkets can have a positive impact.
2. Consumers can drive the market and political decisions
“Me, as a human, I make sense. I am Puerto Rican and Italian and Polish. This is when I learned about biodiversity. My background is what made me so special. And also, our environment thrives when there is more biodiversity.” — Amanda Rodriguez, environmental engineer
Far from being relegated to environmentalists, now sustainability is central to business models, investments, and politics. The more consumers demand sustainable products, wider biodiversity, ancient crops, and forgotten foods, the more companies must comply with their will. Beyond the market, consumers can also drive politics through their votes. This is the prelude for a systemic change.
3. Redefining food safety
“We used to understand food safety mostly on the microbial level of our food. We should focus more on if the food we produce is safe for us, on the health and environmental levels.” Alicja Baska, medical doctor, specialized in public health
The health care system is extremely important in the debate about rethinking sustainable and regenerative food systems. Resilient food generates resilient bodies, strengthens our immune system, and helps us fight illnesses. After all, we all know that climate change is one of the main threats to public health.
4. Synergies for one Health
“We are all talking about food loss and waste. We are rarely talking about nutrient loss.” Jan Kees Klosse, Researcher at the T.A.S.T.E Foundation
Eating well is good for us, but it is also a way to promote biodiversity, assure soil fertility, improve social justice, safeguard equality, and mitigate climate change. Eating well necessitates adequate and universal nutrition to holistically contribute to human wellbeing, their communities, and the ecosystems in which we live.
The post-Covid-19 era should and will focus on the necessity to care for one another. This means embracing synergies, being open to dialogue and cooperation, and investigating what we can really do, according to the role and position we have in our villages, cities, at the national level, or in the international debate.
“It is wrong to do things right only because we are selling more. We have to do things right because it is the right thing to do.” — JC Dalto
The Future Food Institute is an international ecosystem that believes climate change is at the end of your fork. By harnessing the power of its global ecosystem of partners, innovators, researchers, educators, and entrepreneurs, FFI aims to sustainably improve life on Earth through transformation of global food systems.
By training the next generation of changemakers, empowering communities, and engaging government and industry in actionable innovation, FFI catalyzes progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).