Sustainable food system
A sustainable food system (SFS) is a type of food system that provides healthy food to people while also providing sustainable impacts on both environmental, economic and social systems that surround food. Sustainable food systems start with the development of sustainable agricultural practices, development of more sustainable food distribution systems, creation of sustainable diets and reduction of food waste throughout the system. Sustainable food systems are central to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
The study of sustainable food applies systems theory and methods of sustainable design towards food systems. Sustainable food systems are an important component of addressing the causes of climate change, with some estimates suggesting food systems could be responsible for as much as 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions.
There are many different definitions of a sustainable food system.
sustainable food system (SFS) is a food system that delivers food security and nutrition for all in such a way that the economic, social and environmental bases to generate food security and nutrition for future generations are not compromised. This means that:
The American Public Health Association (APHA) defines a sustainable food system as "one that provides healthy food to meet current food needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems that can also provide food for generations to come with minimal negative impact to the environment. A sustainable food system also encourages local production and distribution infrastructures and makes nutritious food available, accessible, and affordable to all. Further, it is humane and just, protecting farmers and other workers, consumers, and communities."
As a interdisciplinary field, the study of sustainable food systems has been growing in the last several decades. University programs focused on sustainable food systems include:
- the University of Colorado
- Harvard Extension
- University of Delaware
- Mesa Community College
- University of California, Davis
- University of Vermont
- Sterling College (Vermont)
- University of Michigan
Problems with conventional food systems
Industrial agriculture cause environmental impacts, health problem associated with obesity in the rich world and hunger in the poor world. This has generated a strong movement towards healthy, sustainable eating as a major component of overall ethical consumerism.
Conventional food systems are largely based on the availability of inexpensive fossil fuels, which is necessary for mechanized agriculture, the manufacture or collection of chemical fertilizers, the processing of food products, and the packaging of the foods. Food processing began when the number of consumers started growing rapidly. The demand for cheap and efficient calories climbed resulting in nutrition decline. Industrialized agriculture, due to its reliance on economies of scale to reduce production costs, often leads to the compromising of local, regional, or even global ecosystems through fertilizer runoff, nonpoint source pollution, and greenhouse gas emission.
Also, the need to reduce production costs in an increasingly global market can cause production of foods to be moved to areas where economic costs (labor, taxes, etc.) are lower or environmental regulations are more lax, which are usually further from consumer markets. For example, the majority of salmon sold in the United States is raised off the coast of Chile, due in large part to less stringent Chilean standards regarding fish feed and regardless of the fact that salmon are not indigenous in Chilean coastal waters. The globalization of food production can result in the loss of traditional food systems in less developed countries, and have negative impacts on the population health, ecosystems, and cultures in those countries.
Sourcing sustainable food
At the global level the environmental impact of agribusiness is being addressed through sustainable agriculture and organic farming. At the local level there are various movements working towards local food production, more productive use of urban wastelands and domestic gardens including permaculture, urban horticulture, local food, slow food, sustainable gardening, and organic gardening.
Sustainable seafood is seafood from either fished or farmed sources that can maintain or increase production in the future without jeopardizing the ecosystems from which it was acquired. The sustainable seafood movement has gained momentum as more people become aware about both overfishing and environmentally destructive fishing methods.
Local food systems
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (November 2019)
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (November 2019)
Food security, nutrition and diet
The environmental effects of different dietary patterns depend on many factors, including the proportion of animal and plant foods consumed and the method of food production. At the same time, current and future food systems need to be provide sufficient nutrition for not only the current population, but future population growth in light of a world effected by changing climate in the face of global warming.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food waste is responsible for 8 percent of global human-made greenhouse gas emissions. The FAO concludes that nearly 30 percent of all available agricultural land in the world - 1.4 billion hectares - is used for produced but uneaten food. The global blue water footprint of food waste is 250 km3, that is the amount of water that flows annually through the Volga or 3 times Lake Geneva.
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