October 25, 2021

United Nations Food System Summit Highlights

United Nations Food System Summit Highlights 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

The United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) held its first virtual meeting on September 23rd. The goal of the meeting is to find collaborative and sustainable ways to eliminate hunger and build a durable food supply. The Summit was attended by United Nations (UN) member states, private sector representatives, farmers, producers, and civil society participants and focused on concrete actions to transform food systems to accelerate progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, created by the UN in 2015.

The meeting was not without controversy. Protesters gathered virtually to boycott the Summit. The People's Autonomous Response to the UN Food Systems Summit believes that UNFSS is influenced by corporate interest and does not address the real problems the planet faces. Michael Fakhri, the UN’s designated outside expert on food rights, said in a video, that the Summit “categorically failed” to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and that the Summit continued to focus on all the wrong things, specifically food production increases. 

During the meeting, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack pledged $5 billion in planned investments and several steps it has taken to advance the goals of ending hunger and malnutrition and building more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive food systems. “We must use the power of ingenuity to improve on food systems so they provide safe, nutritious, affordable, and accessible food for all while conserving natural resources and combating the climate crisis,” said Vilsack.

Those in the agriculture industry applaud the US’ actions during the meeting. The National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) released a joint statement supporting the UNFSS. “The U.S. dairy sector excels at providing the world’s most sustainable milk at the highest level of quality, of which the world will only need more as the population grows and nutrition demands increase. As an industry, U.S. dairy’s commitment to sustainability, productivity, and nutrition security makes it a case study, not just in the livestock sector, but in all of global agriculture, of continuous improvement for the world’s benefit,” said USDEC President and CEO Krysta Harden. “We offer our continued support for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, for greater food and nutrition security, and all aspects of sustainability in the United States and worldwide. This dialogue will continue, and we are excited to contribute to it alongside robust U.S. leadership.”

UNFSS states that the meeting generated nearly 300 commitments from hundreds of thousands of people all over the world working towards the common goals set forth by the UN. The commitments are ways for the Member States and stakeholders to register their collective commitments to action aligned with the action areas.  

“With new investments and a new strategy, Feed the Future aims to contribute to a 20 percent reduction in poverty and stunting in target countries over the next five years. But the United States cannot end hunger on its own, no country can,” said United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power. “We need the support of foundations and food scientists, donors and development agencies, private companies, and partner countries, to not just feed the future, but build a future where hunger is a distant memory.”