Food Systems in 2050: Visions for food systems that sustain people and planet


October 25, 2018 - Stephanie White, Tatevik Avetisyan, Catlin Marie Pauley, Kyle Metta, <>, <>, <>, <>, <>, and <>

We report the findings of a survey distributed globally to a diverse set of food system actors to share their visions for a better food system. The impetus for the survey was a call for proposals released by the Global Alliance for the Future of Food (GAFF) for projects that will “seek input from our vast and diverse networks across borders and disciplines to help craft innovative, inspiring, bold transformative visions for healthy, equitable, renewable, resilient, and culturally diverse” food futures.

Responses to this survey came from seventeen countries. Though most respondents work with particular elements of food systems on a daily basis, they are rarely asked to share their visions for better food systems and to describe, from their perspectives, the opportunities and obstacles that influence progress. The research team proposed to tap this rich resource in order to elicit and present diversely situated, well-positioned, and informed visions for food systems transformations.

The main points to emerge from the survey were:

  • Majority agreement with the basic vision presented for reaction with suggestions for modification which are incorporated in a revised aspirational food system statement.
  • A number of necessary transformations for this vision to become reality were cited including: policy/governance change, Infrastructure/connectivity, expansion of local systems, education/training/research, issues of social equity around food, natural resource conservation/restoration, health/nutrition, and changes to economic systems or markets.
  • The top five environmental factors identified as most directly impeding their ability to move the food system toward their vision were:
    1. Ineffective government/policies,
    2. farm/agri-food system issues,
    3. lack of financial resources,
    4. lack of technology,
    5. non use of science/stakeholder participatory collaboration.
  • The top five social factors identified as most directly impeding their ability to move the food system toward their vision were:
    1. lack of education/knowledge/information/awareness,
    2. poverty,
    3. consumer preferences/changes in lifestyles,
    4. mindset/traditional practices/culture, and
    5. land access.
  • The top five political and economic factors identified as most directly impeding the ability to move the food system toward their vision were:
    1. high unemployment rate/poverty/inequality in access to resources,
    2. inadequate political will/policies,
    3. policy favoring big agricultural producers/unfavorable for small producers,
    4. poor infrastructure,
    5. concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few.
  • The top five cultural and/or behavioral changes needed in societies were identified as:
    1. systems thinking/mindset change,
    2. establish more business mindset/capacity development,
    3. changes in consumption patterns/consumer preferences,
    4. education/knowledge, and
    5. policy change/regulations. 
  • Respondents identified sixteen areas of measurement to gauge improvement in the food system over time. The top five were:
    1. public health/food nutrition/food quality,
    2. household food access year-round/food availability,
    3. increase in local food production/processing/market transactions/profitability/incomes of local people,
    4. environmental quality/impact of food production on environment (e.g., air, water), and
    5. producers’ livelihoods/economic well-being.

The remainder of the report describes these reports in more detail and then provides a conclusion with an augmented aspirational narrative and summarizes key strategies and impediments identified by respondents.

Download the file to read more!

This report was prepared for the Global Alliance for the Future of Food by researchers from Michigan State University’s Department of Community Sustainability.




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