The Time for Action Is Now: A Reflection for World Food Day

Tomorrow is World Food Day.

World Food Day began in 1979 to raise global awareness on poverty and hunger. This year, it is being observed just a few weeks after the end of the United Nations Food Systems Summit, the culmination of 18 months spent gathering information from stakeholders around the world. The Summit aimed to raise awareness about our food systems and contextualize our current moment.

Our moment is troubling to say the least. Today, nearly 800 million people around the world wake up and go to bed hungry. That number is expected to dip somewhat as the world recovers slowly from Covid-19. But any number above zero is too high. As one portion of the world’s population is consumed by hunger, another is consumed by excess. The proliferation and marketing of ultra-processed foods has caused a spike of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. As human health declines, so does planetary health. Much is being done to address both.

Five Dialogues

In the lead up to the Summit, the Faith + Food Coalition hosted five dialogues with voices from faith-based groups, Indigenous communities, small farmers and food producers, and underrepresented communities. The dialogues demonstrated that our current situation doesn’t need to be this way. Solutions for our food systems problems are within reach; in fact, they’re already being implemented around the world. Agroecology practices and recovered traditional and Indigenous wisdom have helped transform local food systems, delivering nutritious and diverse foods.

The Coalition’s efforts attracted attention. After the dialogues, we were invited to present our findings to the WHO in June, during the UN’s Pre-Summit in July, and at a UN-sponsored “global dialogue” in September.

These two short videos from our dialogues highlight the struggle and the hope in front of us.

Interfaith Statement & Report

We recognized that not everyone would be able to watch all our dialogues, so the Coalition Steering Committee distilled the most salient insights and recommendations into two documents: the Faith + Food Interfaith Statement and a report.

First, our Interfaith Statement affirmed the universal right to healthy food, the importance of small producers, the irreplaceable role of women, Indigenous communities, and workers, and the interdependence of people and planet, among other conclusions. We are thrilled that nearly 100 organizations and individuals signed onto the statement in advance of the Summit. (You can read the full Interfaith Statement and view all the signatories here.)

The Coalition not only presented the statement to the Summit Secretariat and organizers but two Coalition members, Marium Husain and Steve Chiu, delivered a shortened version at the conclusion of the Summit’s morning session.

Faith + Food Coalition members Marium Husain, Joshua Basofin, Steve Chiu and Andrew Schwartz share their reflections on the UN Food Systems Summit.

Second, we produced a comprehensive report, Sustainable, Equitable, Resilient: An Ethical Approach to Global Food Systems, which provided a much deeper dive into the rich content of the five dialogues. We hope the recommendations and solutions captured in the report help in the great work of bringing about food systems transformation.

What’s Next

Our work didn’t stop with the Summit. On Monday, Oct. 18, I will moderate a breakout session, “Faith and Food: Cultivating Change Through Our Traditions” at the Parliament of the World Religion’s 2021 Meeting. Our Faith + Food Coalition partners will present the Interfaith Statement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, which begins in Glasgow on November 1. We want to keep pressure on Member States to achieve true food systems transformation.

What can you do? You can view the dialogues and read our report to learn more about the remarkable strides that individuals, Indigenous groups, grassroots organizations and faith communities are taking to improve food quality, access and security. You can sign on to the Interfaith Statement for yourself or your organization. And you can sign up for our Faith + Food Engagement List so that we can keep each other informed and share opportunities to contribute.

The time for action is now.

 

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to reflect the session at the Parliament of the World’s Religions.