Food Systems Everywhere: Improving Relevance in Practice
This article (PDF) in the Global Food Security journal identifies strategies for and performance of food system transformation by assessing 32 highly-cited international studies, identifying and comparing differences in the frameworks used for food systems analysis, and discrepancies in the procedures. Food systems approaches are increasingly used to understand transitions in diets, sustainable resource use and social inclusion, and are widely used in many recent policy and foresight studies. General attention is given to three core components of the food system: food production, agri-food supply chains, and the market and institutional food environment. Most reports do distinguish various food systems components but hardly engage in further analysis of interactions. Attention is mostly given to technological solutions while avoiding behaviour change interventions. Consequently, proposals for food system transformation policies tend to be limited and rarely create incentives toward dynamic and self-enforcing changes at scale. Food systems analysis for identifying critical trade-offs and understanding relevant policies and practices for achieving synergies remains limited. Four specific trends are: 1) Many studies are descriptive, only some offer more practical insights. 2) The large majority of food systems reports are still based on a fairly linear and generic view of supply-demand networks and pay most attention to incentives for supporting food producers. 3) Most “food systems” reports still focus on individual foods or food groups that are important in human diets or may be potentially harmful, and are in fact value-chain reports. 4) Only a few food systems reports pay explicit attention to the bargaining relationships between different stakeholders and the feedback loops that may hinder or support food system transformation. The authors conclude that food systems approaches must be useful to decision makers and performance can only be improved if decision makers have a better understanding of these underlying interactions and dynamics of food systems change.