Blogs, Systems Thinking

Milestone Moments from 2021: Transforming Food Systems

Many of us started the year inspired by the beautiful words of American poet and activist Amanda Gorman in her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the 2021 U.S. Presidential Inauguration. At the start of a new year, it seems fitting to return to her wise words: “And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us / but what stands before us.”

What stands before us is a future of food that is renewable, resilient, healthy, equitable, diverse, inclusive, and interconnected. What stands between us is a space ripe for change, for a confluence of perspectives to interconnect so that transformative change can happen. In an increasingly polarized world, we stand in this space to catalyze connection and change. 

So, as we take stock of our assets at the start of this new year — our members, our collective voice, and willingness to dive deep into the tensions of food systems transformation – here are some milestone moments from 2021 that stand out and hold potential to lead us to a brighter future of food:

  1. Developed seven Calls to Action to catalyze food systems transformation in the build-up to important international events like the UN Food Systems Summit 2021 and COP26. As a set, the Calls to Action center on transformed food systems as a brilliant solution to big global challenges: climate, COVID-19, biodiversity loss, health, poverty, and the risk of future pandemics. 
  2. Created Principles for Food Systems Transformation: A Framework for Action to guide other like-minded individuals and organizations working on systems transformation. As a practical tool, this Framework for Action uses guiding principles to help inform and shape efforts toward a better future for all. 
  3. Addressed the United Nations on behalf of the UN Food Systems Summit Multi-Actor Food Systems Champions Network. As an organization that has convened diverse agents of change so we can, together, co-create solutions and inform action – the scientific community, grassroots movements, policymakers, farmers, the private sector, Indigenous Peoples, and others – it was a privilege to give this speech on the network’s behalf. 
  4. Collaborated with 70+ experts from around the world to develop a new compendium and multimedia interactive on The Politics of Knowledge that explores how these experts understand, document, and communicate evidence about agroecology, regenerative approaches, and Indigenous foodways and, in doing so, supports the efficacy of these approaches and challenges key issues related to the politics of knowledge that all too often keep these approaches from being understood, taken up, and acted upon — even when we need them most. 

Gorman sets out a challenge in her poem: “If we’re to live up to our own time / then victory won’t lie in the blade / But in all the bridges we’ve made / that is the promise to glade / the hill we climb / If only we dare.” May 2022 be a year of daring to reach for what stands before us, building bridges along the way. 

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Ruth Richardson

Executive Director, Global Alliance for the Future of Food