Food Systems Monitoring

THE CHALLENGE

Today, food systems are failing to support human health and threaten the long-term viability of life on earth and are similarly threatened by the impacts of climate change. Food systems are responsible for an estimated 30% of greenhouse gas emissions and the foods we eat are linked to six of the top ten risk factors for disease and death globally. Continuing on the present path is untenable for current and future generations. Food system transformation is central to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by their 2030 deadline as well as to meeting the targets and commitments established in the three Rio Conventions on climate change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD), and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Meeting those goals is possible but rigorous evidence is needed to guide the path forward.

PROJECT OVERVIEW

The Food Systems Monitoring project is working to build a science-based observational system to monitor food systems globally. No rigorous mechanism currently exists to measure and track all aspects of food systems, their interactions, and their changes over time. Deliberately changing complex systems that cut across sectors, jurisdictions, and national borders calls for a comprehensive, ongoing program of scientific measurement, monitoring, and assessment of all aspects of the system to guide decisionmakers and hold those in power to account for transformation. Monitoring can assess performance relative to established targets and goals and incentivize action. Doing so for food systems complements other global and regional monitoring and tracking initiatives focused on related outcomes, such as sustainable agriculture, nutrition, and health. Such monitoring can further offer food system actors and stakeholders (e.g., civil society, governments, and international organizations) actionable evidence to hold governments, consumers (specifically, those with the privilege to choose), and the private sector accountable for food system transformation. The first goal of the project is to provide summary statistics for the curated, parsimonious set of indicators that together cover all important aspects of food systems to be published in a peer-reviewed, scientific journal thereby providing a food systems baseline. Subsequent publications will track this set of indicators, with ongoing rigorous evaluation of the suite of indicators and analysis methods. The second goal is to answer new research questions regarding the interactions, feedback loops, and distal impacts of changes in food systems. Our research agenda centers around the evidence gaps exposed by moving from siloed, disciplinary analyses of agriculture, nutrition, health, and the environment to a comprehensive understanding of food systems.

PARTNERS

The Food Systems Monitoring project is led by Dr. Jessica Fanzo of Johns Hopkins, Dr. Lawrence Haddad of GAIN, and Dr. Jose Rosero Moncayo of the FAO. Dr. Kate Schneider leads the data team and overall coordination for this project together with several Hopkins graduate students. Our initial set of 53 collaborators in 2021 span all inhabited continents, and come from across research, academic, multilateral, government, and civil society organizations. This project has been funded to date by the Government of the Netherlands.

Recent highlight

Agri-food Systems Transformation: New, Ambitious Framework Proposed to Monitor Progress
Prof. Fanzo seeks rigorous metrics system in piece published by the Food Policy Journal

Food Systems Monitoring Webinar

UN Food Systems Summit side event: “Rigorous monitoring is necessary to guide food system transformation in the countdown to 2030 global goals and beyond,” held September 24, 2021