17 ROOMS: Imagining Bold Food Futures to Reach SDG 2: Zero Hunger


This blog was originally posted on The Rockefeller Foundation website.

As part of 17 Rooms, an initiative of The Rockefeller Foundation and Brookings Institution, we recently had the honor of co-hosting Room 2, facilitating three deep-dive dialogues focused on accelerating action around SDG 2: Zero Hunger.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the limitations of our food system, including its deep inequities, its fragile supply chains, its shockingly high toll on our planet’s resources, and its lack of resilience to shocks. From local food systems to global institutions like the United Nations, many of us are calling for radical structural change to ensure that everyone has equitable access to nourishing food.

There is much talk about getting back to normal after the pandemic, but returning to normal — “business as usual” — would mean more of the disastrous same: intensification of non-sustainable agricultural and animal production; destruction of natural ecosystems; increased risk of zoonotic diseases emerging and spreading to the human population, as happened with Covid-19; higher levels of malnutrition; and the continued rise of diet-related diseases.

Tasked with developing a set of ambitious priorities to advance SDG 2, we convened 15 experts from across issues and sectors, doing our best to be inclusive of geographies, cultures, and perspectives. Through three fruitful sessions, the participants of Room 2 agreed that to bend the curve of diet-related diseases, hunger, and food and nutrition security, we need to:

  • Highlight the critical role of smallholder farmers—especially women—and reinforce their livelihoods as a positive force for healthy diets and a healthy planet;
  • Advance the adoption of regenerative and ecological farming practices to ensure sustainable food systems; and
  • Leverage the power and potential of True Cost Accounting, which considers not only the immediate and direct costs of food, but also extended and indirect costs (e.g., to human health and to the environment).

As decision-makers navigate this year’s UN General Assembly and prepare for other key events such as the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021, they must choose the pathways that lead us towards a sustainable and equitable ecological and economic recovery. An immediate place to start is by moving the needle on how we frame the future of food and the stories that we tell ourselves about what is possible.

A common thread throughout the discussion in Room 2 was the need to imagine bold new narratives for food systems. These narratives would, in turn, be underpinned by impactful case studies designed to influence economic policy arguments and drive better decision-making among key stakeholders, including governments, multilateral organizations, private sector actors, and civil society.

The Food System Vision Prize is an invitation for organizations around the globe to boldly reimagine what the future of food systems could be. Launched by The Rockefeller Foundation, the Prize calls on a fragmented system of actors to unite, source, and support positive Visions for 2050. The 10 Finalist Visions embody this spirit of creativity and possibility: each imagines a more sustainable and equitable food future that nourishes both people and planet.

Similarly, the Global Alliance’s Beacons of Hope project showcases 21 initiatives from across the world that are working in diverse ways to achieve sustainable, equitable, and secure food systems. Each contributes inspiring solutions to urgent global issues such as the climate emergency, migration, urbanization, and the need for healthier and more sustainable diets.

Following on the discussions in Room 2, the 15 participants will continue to form partnerships and invest their institutional resources toward the identified actions, including support to smallholder farmers, increased adoption of regenerative farming, and widespread employment of True Cost Accounting. We will also aim to think beyond what’s “normal” and instead imagine a new paradigm for future food systems.

The stories of our past, present, and future shape how we think. They shape how we act and what we think is possible. The time is now for transformational change—let’s imagine a more equitable, nourishing and regenerative food future for all.

By Ruth Richardson, Executive Director, The Global Alliance for the Future of Food; Roy Steiner, Senior Vice President of the Food Initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation &