Our food systems are responsible for approximately 30% of human-made greenhouse gas emissions, 70% of freshwater withdrawals, and are key drivers of both terrestrial and marine biodiversity loss.  We are experiencing the dual global nutritional challenges of obesity and hunger, poverty issues such as farmers’ wages persist across the global food industry, and yet a third of the food that we produce is lost or wasted. These challenges are complex and formidable, but not unsurmountable. ‘Fixing food’ is possible with a transition that involves the protection and restoration of natural habitats, widespread adoption of sustainable farming practices, tackling global food waste and, crucially, dietary shifts. We need to eat ‘less and better’ meat, more plant-based food, and less energy-dense, nutrient-poor food. Food retailers, caterers and restaurants are in a unique position to influence the required transitions in consumption and production, being both gatekeepers to our diets and the channel through which most commercially produced food is funnelled.

Plating Up Progress, a project of the Food Climate Research Network and the Food Foundation, is collaborating with organisations such as ATNI in order to scope out the metrics that companies should be reporting in order to evidence commitments and performance in this transition.  Reducing environmental impacts without ensuring that the food we eat is healthy and nutritious is somewhat missing the point, so the role that ATNI plays in providing the “nutritional lens” is vital.  By combining the different benchmarks that focus on nutrition, animal welfare, carbon, water and deforestation we can begin to provide stakeholders such as investors (as well as businesses themselves) with a multi-dimensional view for tracking progress.  And by leveraging our combined networks with these stakeholders we can work towards the consistent use of metrics SMART targets (Specific, Measurable, Accurate, Reliable, Timely) across the food industry.

If nothing else, Plating Up Progress shows that, whilst complex, food system challenges are best approached with a collaborative mindset where the required changes around our diets, sustainable food production and food waste reduction can be tackled when the right organisations work together.

July saw the release of the first report from Plating Up Progress (Part 1: an investor briefing on food-related risks and opportunities), which will be followed by a September report (Part 2: an analysis of the UK retail and restaurant sectors, and ‘must have’ metrics for tracking progress) launched at our London conference on the 5th of September.

You can read the latest report from Plating Up Progress (Part 1: an investor briefing) and register for the multistakeholder conference (Access To Nutrition will be participating) here: https://foodfoundation.org.uk/plating-up-progress-part-1/

By Will Nicholson, The Food Foundation.

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