A Glance at (Sustainable) Food Systems

The FAO defines Food Systems in 2021 (1) as:

“… complex and multi-dimensional webs of activities, resources and actors involving the production, processing, handling, preparation, storage, distribution, marketing, access, purchase, consumption, and loss and waste of food, and the outputs of these activities, including social, economic and environmental outcomes.”

Contemporary food systems follow a productivist paradigm emphasising the role of cost and standardisation (2) with different consequences. On the one hand, adverse effects are expanding hunger and food insecurity, but simultaneously increasing overweight, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies (3). Furthermore, one third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions can be assigned to processes and effects of food systems (4). Injustice and dependencies as well as a big share of food loss and food waste are only a few further examples of problems within the current globalized food systems.

Another aspect underlining the importance of food systems in creating a more just and sustainable world is that food systems play a role in all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (6) adopted by the United Nations Member States. The SDGs aim to resolve poverty and seek “to heal and secure our planet” (7). Hence, one key aspect to implement them successfully is also to transform the food system substantially.

Sustainable food systems are defined by FAO (1) as “… food systems that enable food safety, food security and nutrition for current and future generations in accordance with the three dimensions (economic, social and environmental) of sustainable development. Sustainable food systems must be inclusive, equitable and resilient.”

The FOOdIVERSE project investigates how diversity in diets, novel food supply chains and food governance lead to more sustainable food systems and hence, how diversity can contribute to the transformation of food systems.


The project was co-financed by the NCBR, BMEL, MIPAAF, RCN and DEFRA within the framework of ERA-NET SUSFOOD and ERA-NET CORE Organic Cofund Joint Call program