Sustainable food systems to achieve the SDGs

Insights from the 3rd Global Conference of the Sustainable Food Systems Programme

The 3rd Global Conference of the Sustainable Food Systems Programme of the UN One Planet network, took place from November 25th to December 3rd. It brought together thought leaders, policymakers, civil society, farmers, business, academia, media, donors and individuals working throughout food systems to discuss and build a common vision towards healthier, more sustainable and equitable food systems. The conference focused on the catalysing role that food systems play in delivering the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, acknowledging food systems are part of the problem and also a crucial system for transformation to achieve the SDGs vision and targets.

Hundreds of people from across the world attended the virtual conference. On Monday 30th of November, UNSCN co-organized the session “Leveraging public procurement to accelerate SDG implementation”. The session highlighted the many synergistic benefits that can result from food procurement initiatives, with a special focus on sustainable school food procurement as a powerful implementation tool for food system transformation and advancing the SDG’s.

School meal programmes offer low hanging fruit to transform food systems as through well planned public procurement they can serve as triple duty actions to address undernutrition, prevent overweight and obesity and protect planetary health. The combined purchasing power of schools can shift food production toward more wholesome, healthy foods and ingredients, supplied from local, sustainable producers. Governments can significantly contribute to achieving sustainable healthy diets by using public finance, and creating strong regulatory frameworks for these school meal programmes to ensuring the provision of healthy meals procured from local farmers, such as the example set by home-grown school feeding programmes.

Panelists acknowledged that sustainable transformation requires the alignment of actions and use of joint indicators to guide these actions. As such school meal programmes can harness the potential of public procurement for sustainable, healthy food system transformation. The session called for a global framework for action on sustainable and healthy school meals to be considered as a game changing solution at the Food Systems Summit in 2021.

The Conference also hosted the first Global Food Systems Summit Dialogue. The event collected recommendations on actionable measures that can address the complexities of our food systems across a range of identified priority areas: collaborative action mechanisms, scientific challenges of food systems metrics, holistic policies, investing in transformative initiatives, public procurement, finances and consumer behaviour change. UNSCN repeated the enormous potential of public procurement for school meal programs. 

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