The time to act is now: reorganizing the performance of food systems
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we can anticipate a shift in food preferences due to a rise in response to a global cautiousness around health. For example, we expect to see a continued increase in demand for fresh fruits over industrial sweetened packaged fruit juices due to a greater awareness and focus on these food items’ health benefits. Intrinsically linked to food nutrition, agriculture is an essential and vital aspect upon which human life depends.
As a consequence of COVID-19, global food supply chains have been disrupted. Countries that rely on imports of foods, especially fruits and vegetables, are hit hard as these foodstuffs form a critical part of diets that boost people’s immunity, and contribute to guaranteeing a nation’s health status. Restrictions on movement, coupled with the unexpected loss of household incomes due to the economic ripple effect caused by COVID-19, has worsened the accessibility and availability of nutritious food families across the globe need daily. Both have become key concerns.
Digital quality, safety assurance, and agricultural inputs are all relevant when considering the impacts on food security and how to offer such security to families amid the current global trends of online food marketing and delivery. Surveillance on the quality of foods and their safety needs to be adequately in place to implement online food deliveries and orders successfully. Doing so avoids substandard goods infiltrating the food supply and, as such, will reduce food loss and waste, ensuring the food supply chain is more efficient.
Currently, there is little capacity to minimize post-harvest loss, and research on the latter is vital when addressing efficient harvest for food security. Together, countries and food producers will need to shift and diversify their operations to meet the current population’s demand for healthy foods. Otherwise, we will continue to see poor health outcomes and potentially weakened immune systems, and malnutrition.
There is a need to meet several food criteria smartly and simultaneously. Food must be suitable for individual consumption, good for sustaining our habitat, and good for farmers’ welfare.
We must shelter vulnerable groups from the negative impacts of COVID-19.
Where to from here? We must prioritize the bio-fortification of staple foods to address micro-nutrient and deficiencies. We should also prioritize ensuring the supply of bioavailable nutrients in locally consumed foods. As it stands, our current global nutrition target is unlikely to be met, and we will fail to end world hunger by 2030. COVID-19 has brought to light the importance of promoting conservation and the use of indigenous crop varieties. That said, it has also eradicated the positive gains made and threatens food and nutrition systems, especially in more vulnerable areas of the globe, economically and in terms of health systems.
Harward is a result-oriented professional with diverse experience in fast-moving consumer goods with a passion for food science and technology, sustainable community development, system mapping, food entrepreneurship, and research. Harward is a trained food scientist and technologist with knowledge in quality assurance, ISO systems, hazard analysis and critical control points, product development, food safety, and production management. Harward is also part of the Young African Leadership Initiative—Business and Entrepreneurship Track. He holds several badges and certificates from IBM including Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.