July 3, 2023, by bbzpn

Transforming our food systems

In 2017, the University of Nottingham launched the Future Food Beacon to help address the challenge of sustainably and nutritiously feeding a growing world population. After six years laying the research foundation and building partnerships and a research pipeline, the University is launching the University of Nottingham Food Systems Institute to take an interdisciplinary approach to these challenges and to expand the scope, scale and, most importantly, impact of the research.

The establishment of this new Institute comes at a critical moment. The UK’s National Food Strategy notes, “The food system we have today is both a miracle and a disaster.” Food production has outstripped a growing global population, dramatically reducing global hunger over the last century. However, that bounty has also come with a cost, contributing to deforestation and biodiversity loss as well as rising rates of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases.

Future outlook

The problems are poised to get worse without a course correction. Over the next 30 years, growing demand for food—and particularly animal protein—will place enormous pressure on natural resources that have already been pushed, in many places, beyond breaking point. Rivers, lakes and aquifers are running dry and fish stocks are at risk of collapse. The strain to produce crops and to sell food at affordable levels will impact the planet and the world’s rich and poor alike. The last few years have made that challenge abundantly clear.

There are no simple solutions to these problems, only tradeoffs. The food system is wildly complex and needs a more holistic and coordinated approach to solutions. The challenges related to food security and nutrition are further complicated by disputed solutions that go beyond specific fields, divisions, and institutions. In today’s globalized food systems, these challenges arise from interactions at various scales and levels. Addressing them requires integrated actions from all stakeholders at local, national, regional, and global levels. This involves both public and private actors working together across multiple areas, such as agriculture, trade, policy, health, environment, gender norms, education, transport and infrastructure. Instead of conflicting with one another, it is necessary to merge ideas from different perspectives in a synergistic manner.

Achieving these goals in the coming decades will require significant changes to how we produce and consume food. Critical shifts include halting agriculture-led deforestation, sustainably increasing crop yields and meat productivity, changing farm practices and technologies, dramatically reducing food loss and waste, and shifting global protein consumption patterns. No community, business, non-governmental organization or government can achieve the transformation needed to stop, and ultimately reverse, these trends alone. We must work together to produce and consume food more wisely.

As the National Food Strategy points out, “Transforming the food system will require change at all levels: structural, cultural, local and individual.” The University of Nottingham’s Food Systems Institute is well positioned to take on this challenge. The University of Nottingham, along with its global campuses,  conducts a diverse range of food-related research with facilities in crop and livestock production, food science and technology, human nutrition and dietetics, as well as relevant research in business, policy and the social sciences related to consumer behaviour.

Personal perspective

I am excited, and humbled, to have been selected as the founding Director of the University of Nottingham’s Food Systems Institute. The Institute will serve as a hub for collaboration, bringing together experts, researchers, policymakers, and stakeholders from around the world. Through interdisciplinary research, policy advocacy and community engagement, we will drive transformative change in the global food system.

Our Institute will also prioritize the integration of education and outreach programs. By equipping future generations of leaders with knowledge and skills in sustainable food production and consumption, we can empower them to become agents of positive change to create the food system envisioned by the National Food Strategy that

1) makes us well instead of sick,

2) is resilient enough to withstand global shocks,

3) helps to restore nature and halt climate change so that we hand on a healthier planet to our children, and

4) meets the standards that the public expect on health, environment and animal welfare.

This approach will ensure a lasting impact and a more sustainable food future for all. The food system of the future must meet these goals.

As we embark on this exciting journey, we invite individuals and organizations alike to join us in this crucial mission. Together, we can revolutionize the way we think about food, nurture the planet, and ensure that no one goes hungry.

The University of Nottingham’s Food Systems Institute is ready to lead the charge towards a future where sustainable food production feeds the world, preserves our natural resources, and protects the delicate balance of our planet. Stay tuned for updates, research breakthroughs, and opportunities to get involved as we work towards this vital cause.

Posted in Future Food News