Here’s how young people want to transform our food systems

21 October 2021, 07:17 AM
  • There are reasons to be hopeful about the future of food and farming, say youth campaigners at Act4Food Act4Change
Here’s how young people want to transform our food systems

With fewer than nine harvests left to the end of the UN’s sustainable development goals, we at Act4Food Act4Change are calling for a drastic food systems transformation for people and the planet. Over 100,000 young people and allies of youth are distressed by the current state our food systems across the globe. We are standing together through the Act4Food Act4Change pledge to set alarm bells ringing, to showcase that we need change. 

We know that food systems are the primary driver of biodiversity loss, with agriculture threatening 86% of species at risk of extinction and responsible for 80% of deforestation. Food systems also contribute to up to 37% of greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. 

Food insecurity compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic remains a major problem with up to 811 million people going hungry in 2020 (an 18% increase on 2019), 149 million children under five being stunted and another 49 million wasted. The nutrition outlook is also grim with three billion people globally unable to afford even the cheapest form of a healthy diet, and 1 in 5 people globally dying because of poor diets. Yet, at the same time, approximately 40% of all food is wasted.

But hope is not lost, out of this dire situation young people remain eager to create change, there is a growing movement of youth from across the globe who have showcased this commitment at the United Nations Food Systems Pre-Summit, at the United Nations Food Systems Summit, at the Food is the Future event and at Pre-COP, this growing movement will also be standing up for people and planet through food systems transformation at COP26 and the Nutrition4Growth summit.

“I’ve been angry and disappointed, but also surprised and inspired”

Sophie Healy-Thow, global youth campaigns coordinator for Act4Food Act4Change

As a young person who has been to many different UN events over the past few years as a youth activist, I have often felt emotional. I’ll admit at times I’ve been angry and disappointed. But I’ve also been surprised and inspired and through the United Nations Food Systems Summit coming together, even in a virtual space – I felt hopeful.

In Ireland, the need for this campaign is hidden but it does exist. Recently an article came out which showcased that young people in my city are quitting their studies in University because they are starving; they simply cannot afford food. In Ireland as a young person, healthy, nutritious food is unaffordable. At the same time, obesity rates are on the rise. We live in a world where a healthy diet is a luxury. This needs to change.

“Youth-led solutions give me hope”

Belinda Ng, Act4Food Hong Kong youth leader

Through virtual attendance at the international food-related conferences, like the United Nations Food Systems Summit in the past year, it has been an inspiring experience to listen to how different stakeholders within the food system are taking action towards creating a more sustainable food system. In particular, the innovative youth-led solutions across various geographies have given me so much hope. It remains so important to foster inclusive and constructive platforms for collaboration to address the various facets of such complex societal and environmental issues in our food system.

The Act4Food Act4Change campaign has brought people together to commit towards creating change. The campaign launched in May of this year following the success of GAIN’s Bangladeshi Eat Well Live Well campaign. Through our pledge to galvanise food system transformation, we have reached over 100,000 young people and allies of youth across the globe; we have also gained over 50,000 votes on our Actions4Change. The pledge enables us to see what youth around the world in different countries are prioritising, and use this knowledge as a useful way of mobilising and demanding food system change in countries.

The possibilities are endless

Food systems transformation will involve everyone. The Act4Food Act4Change campaign highlights twelve key problems in the food system, ranging from farming and agriculture, food waste, water, to animal welfare and antibiotics. 

The development of robust supply chains by retailers that thoroughly consider approaches to address these twelve issues will be vital for food systems transformation. Furthermore, enhanced communication between food producers, suppliers, and consumers about sustainability issues will be greatly beneficial to address these issues. 

Youth have made their priorities clear through the Act4Food Act4Change campaign, and there are plenty of opportunities for all stakeholders within the food system to take action too. The possibilities are endless.

close stay up-to-date with our free newsletter | expert intel | tailored industry news | new-to-know trend analysis | sign up | speciality food daily briefing