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  • Writer's pictureDoris Zheku

Sustainable Food Systems

Some say the current global food system is broken and unsustainable.

Others look to sustainable food systems as the solution.

But what is a sustainable food system?

The Basics

Sustainable food systems consist of four main goals: to be environmentally sound, environmentally humane, socially just, and economically viable.

This means producers are raising crops in biodiverse environments in which animal welfare is prioritized. Businesses find ways to sustainably produce and market their products at a profit while also paying fair wages to the workers who harvest food and raise animals.

Sustainable food system advocates also look to the farming and agriculture sector to implement environmentally friendly practices, like rotating crops. This practice increases biodiversity in crops and helps to ensure that soil stays fertile.

Essentially, sustainable food systems also take into account the environmental impact of producing, distributing, and consuming healthy food.

Its focus isn’t solely cost, profit, and efficiency, but also fairness.

Food Waste and Sustainable Food Systems

Food waste can be found in all aspects of the production and consumption of food – from farms to tables to homes.

Sustainable food systems work to reduce food waste and create “closed loops”.

An example of a closed loop is when food waste items, such as eggshells, are composted and repurposed to be used as fertilizer. The fertilizer then adds nutrients to the soil and helps to grow more food. A sustainable food system helps to close the loop by composting food waste that would have ended up in a landfill and emit greenhouse gasses.

Tackling food waste goes hand in hand with implementing sustainable food systems. As government agencies, nonprofits, start-ups and producers of food look for solutions to reduce food waste and lessen their environmental impact, it is certain they will adopt the practices of sustainable food systems.

Sustainable Food Systems and Business

More than ever, the goals of sustainable food systems align with consumers’ values.

Matt Bell, a strategy and marketing consultant who works primarily with food vendors, said buyers patronize businesses that align with their personal values.

“We assume people buy things based on a logical evaluation of features,

benefits, and cost, but a large part of consumers' decision making is

emotional. Within that emotional realm, consumers gravitate toward brands and businesses that demonstrate alignment with their personal values,” said Bell.

“Key societal issues that are shaping today's younger generations perspectives and

values are sustainability, transparency, ethics, inclusivity, and equality. This means brands authentically acting in ways that favor those issues will establish an emotional connection with younger buyers, earning their trust and business,” he said.

Consumers, especially younger ones, are demanding that their food be sustainable and are even willing to pay more for it, as I previously wrote here.

The increased demand for sustainability and sustainable food systems has not gone unnoticed by tech startups. Companies like Too Good To Go, Misfits Markets and Goodr have popped up to take advantage of the opportunity food waste management poses.

According to Grand View Research, the global food waste management market size was estimated at $34.22 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow 5.4% annually.

Sustainable food systems are not only concerned with the environment, but they are also becoming ever more economically sustainable. This might be possible, thanks to the increase in consu

mers looking for sustainably produced food.

Looking Ahead

Working to change the current food system to be more sustainable will require A TON of innovation and initiative.

However, a future that contains sustainable food systems will see consumers, businesses, and producers aligned on the value of sustainability when it comes to the production, selling and consumption of food.



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