By 2050, we will need to feed 10 billion people every day. In its current state, our food system will not be able to handle this demand.
Fixing our broken global food system is not just a matter of priority, it is a matter of survival. In this article, you will understand why our food system is broken and what needs to happen for us to fix it and ensure the continued survival of humanity.
This article sheds light on the conversation between April Adams-Redmond the Global Brand Vice President at Unilever and Shad Raouf, Show Host. April Redmond is in charge of Knorr, one of the largest food brands on the planet.
If you prefer to listen, click play below.
The problem with the global food system is threefold. The first problem is that we consume too much of the same foods. In fact, 75% of the food we consume comes from 12 crops and 5 animal species. Our food consumption diversity is so low that 60% of our plant-based calories come from rice, wheat, and maize. The second problem is that the foods we choose to eat are too resource-intensive. In particular, this means that to safely eat them, we use lots of water and lots of land. The third key issue with our food system is the way we farm. Our approach to farming hurts both farmers and the environment. Some scientists believe that the accelerating depletion of soil will stop the soil’s ability to grow the crops we need to survive.
The threats endangering our food supply affect the entirety of the farm-to-fork continuum. It is not just farming that needs to change, it is our consumption habits too. A regenerative food future requires everyone to work together to pull in the new system. If we make farming practices wholly regenerative but don’t change our consumption habits, we will not survive on this planet. This is why the most important thing anyone can do to fix the food system is to care.
We need to be willing to make sacrifices if we’re going to truly solve the problems that face our food system. Adopting a long-term mindset is hard to swallow and there will be lots of uneasy times when we are forced to live in ways we aren’t used to. Genuine caring bridges the gap between the tough trade-offs we have to make today and the viable future of the human race. Without genuine caring, we won’t be able to build a future where we have enough food to remain on the planet. Caring makes the pain of sacrifice easier to stomach.
Unilever is working on the farm and fork side to make a regenerative food future possible. On the farm side, they are moving away from sustainable farming practices, which they have been using for over a decade, to regenerative agricultural practices.
Part of the €1 billion Unilever Climate and Nature Fund is going towards 50 lighthouse projects where Unilever is working directly with farmers to experiment and learn how to grow crops regeneratively. For example, they are experimenting with regeneratively farmed rice instead of farming rice in a way that depletes the soil. They are also learning how to make regenerative farming economically viable for farmers. Economic viability is a huge lever in increasing the adoption of regenerative methods.
So, what makes this collaboration radical? All the learnings from these projects will be publicly available for free to everyone. Unilever recognizes that fixing the food system is not a matter of competition, but a matter of collaboration. Keeping practices that work secret is counterintuitive. Sharing learnings far and wide is what will help us build a system that truly carries our human race forward into the future. We have to recognize that our goal is shared: to survive.
Call for Change
As April Redmond puts it: “change the world by changing what’s on your plate”. The only way to future-proof our food system at scale is for all of us to work together. Unilever published the Future 50 Foods Report with the World Wildlife Foundation. The report lists 50 foods that we can eat to have a positive impact on our health and our environment. The list includes foods like fava beans, quinoa, wild rice, okra, spinach, kale, and flax seeds. April also advises people to check the labels when shopping and buy products that were made using regenerative practices.
Fixing the broken system starts with individual practices. We are each part of a larger whole. We have a duty to our children and grandchildren to make the planet a safe place for them. What new foods will you be introducing to your diet to be part of this essential movement? What foods in your diet will you be replacing?