Food and the Sustainable Development Goals
Food and agriculture feature prominently in many of the Sustainable Development Goals, because they are interconnected with almost all aspects of economy, environment and society, from hunger, malnutrition, desertification, sustainable water use, loss of biodiversity, to overconsumption, obesity and public health.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty and hunger, protect the planet and ensure inclusion, peace and prosperity for all. Food and agriculture feature prominently in many of the Sustainable Development Goals, because they are interconnected with almost all aspects of economy, environment and society, from hunger, malnutrition, desertification, sustainable water use, loss of biodiversity, to overconsumption, obesity and public health.
SDG 2 aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. In order to achieve it, we must also address underlying structural problems tied with poverty, lack of access to education, employment and health care, climate change, water and resource scarcity and others.
Naturally, eliminating hunger is inextricably linked to eradicating poverty (SDG 1). To end poverty, we must increase access to basic services and support people in disaster-stricken areas. We must also expand social protection schemes to the poor and vulnerable, including school feeding and food assistance. Programmes such as providing daily meals for schoolchildren in underdeveloped regions improve learning, attendance and enrollment in primary schools, which is essential in achieving inclusive quality education for all (SDG 4). Improving food security is also essential in reducing inequalities (SDG 10), because malnutrition disproportionately affects the most vulnerable, such as women, children, elderly, people with disabilities and the migrants.
Only access to safe and nutritious food will ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all (SDG 3). In developing countries in particular, hunger and malnutrition are linked to a number of illnesses, high levels of child mortality and long-term developmental impacts. On the other hand, obesity, diabetes and other diet-related conditions, have become epidemic in developed countries. Tackling overconsumption and food waste is essential in ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns (SDG 12). Approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption in the world is wasted. The food wasted in Europe alone would be enough to feed all the hungry people in the world two times over (European Commission 2015).
Reducing food waste would also minimize environmental impacts generated by the agriculture. The production of wasted food uses around 1.4 billion hectares of land (28% of the world’s agricultural area) and a huge amount of surface or groundwater, known as “blue water”, 38 times more than US households (Feedback Global). More responsible use of resources in the agri-food industry would help protect life below water (SDG 14) and life on land (SDG 15), promote healthier ecosystems and halt biodiversity loss. Given the complexity of issues surrounding food and agriculture, a holistic and interdisciplinary approach seems to be the only way to achieve a truly sustainable and inclusive global food system.
Author: Marina Tomić (The Croatian Institute for CSR)