Reimagining Food Systems: Driving Action for a Post-COVID World

The Rockefeller Foundation and EAT co-hosted a virtual convening, that highlighted the critical need and unique opportunity for food system transformation in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
Reimagining Food Systems event co-hosted with Rockefeller Foundation

New York, June 24, 2020 – More than 2,000 people from over 100 countries, including farmers, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, scientists, researchers, grassroots advocates and chefs, gathered on Wednesday, June 24 for a virtual convening to reimagine food systems for a post-COVID world. Co-hosted by The Rockefeller Foundation and EAT, the event highlighted stories from the frontlines of the Covid-19 food crisis and featured innovators and experts working to transform global food systems to be more resilient, nutritious and equitable. A recording of the event is available here.

To fix any system, it’s about collective actionIdris Elba

Covid-19 has brought unprecedented attention to the deep flaws and vulnerabilities in global food systems. According to the World Food Programme, the effects of Covid-19 will nearly double the number of people facing acute food insecurity from 135 million in 2019 to 265 million by the end of 2020. The pandemic has also laid bare vulnerabilities and inequities in supply chains, straining grocery stores and food banks while causing farmers to waste millions of pounds of fresh produce. Reimagining Food Systems: Driving Action for a Post-COVID World highlighted the urgency and unique opportunity for food systems transformation in the wake of this global crisis.

Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba, UN Goodwill Ambassadors to the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), opened the convening by emphasizing the pandemic’s effects on food systems. “Like many of you, we’re concerned that hunger is rising and that our global food systems may break under the weight of Covid-19,” said Sabrina Dhowre Elba. “To fix any system, it’s about collective action,” Idris Elba continued.

Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation, also provided opening remarks. “We believe today’s crisis, brought about by a health pandemic that’s caused a hunger pandemic, can actually be an opportunity to drive through desperately needed changes that can make our food system more equitable, more nourishing and more sustainable,” said Dr. Shah. “Our task is not just to respond to the immediate challenges of this health pandemic, but to understand that this is a moment where we can actually create larger, systemic and more thorough change.”

The Rockefeller Foundation recently allocated $1.4 million in grant funds to U.S. organizations to address the food and nutritional needs of vulnerable children and families during the pandemic. In sub-Saharan Africa, The Foundation is working with government and private sector partners to ensure the safe operation of fresh markets to keep food trade flowing during the pandemic and to leverage data and technology to inform policy decisions on food trade, stock, and disbursement and help prevent food shortages, price hikes, or famines.

Our collective response to the Covid-19 pandemic must plant the seed for more resilient, more sustainable food systemsDavid Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme

In addition to discussing strategies to respond to the urgent needs of today, speakers explored areas for long-term action, including building resilient local food systems, strengthening supply chains, and ensuring more equitable and nutritious food access within sustainable planetary boundaries. Semi-Finalists from The Rockefeller Foundation’s Food System Vision Prize shared their experiences of the Covid-19 crisis and how it impacted their visions to create a more regenerative and nourishing food system by 2050. The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) discussed its recently-launched Food Systems Dashboard, a tool that collects national food systems data to inform better food policy.

“Our collective response to the Covid-19 pandemic must plant the seed for more resilient, more sustainable food systems. As we build them back up, we all need to work together to build them back better, so we can realize our shared ambition of a future free from hunger,” said David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme.

“We’ve inherited a food system that is deeply divisive,” said Kate Raworth, Co-Director, Doughnut Economics Action Lab. “We need to turn this into many global food systems that are distributive by design, that share and interconnect value and opportunity between all who are involved in producing food. We need to meet the needs of all people within the needs of the planet.”

The virtual convening comes as the global community prepares for the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit, which aims to raise awareness, build momentum, and secure commitments for future food systems transformation. Dr. Agnes Kalibata, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the 2021 Food Systems Summit joined the event and said, “I’m asking you all to be champions of the Food Systems Summit because we have to build back better and use this as an opportunity to define new food systems for our planet, for our people and a better future for our children.” Dr. Kalibata announced that more details on the Summit will be released on July 7, 2020.

In advance of the Food Systems Summit, Dr. David Nabarro, Strategic Director, 4SD, and Curator, Food Systems Dialogues, encouraged event participants to join the upcoming Food Systems Dialogues to discuss topics including food systems policies and economics; science-based targets and pathways; and the potential role of innovation. “Start thinking about the transformation of food systems from very different points of view, and particularly from those who are the poorest, those who have suffered the greatest injustice, and those most exposed to the Covid-19 virus,” said Dr. Nabarro. “This will provide a much more holistic, fair, and just approach to food systems transformation.”

EAT@Home will be a participatory series of live broadcasts, workshops, eventsDr. Gunhild A. Stordalen, Founder & Executive Chair, EAT

Today’s event also marked the launch of EAT@Home, a digital platform and series of interactive events on food systems transformation planned through the end of 2020 and toward the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has made it obvious to everyone that the food system is broken. Science says we have less than ten years to make massive change. Our only choice is to build back better, together,” said Dr. Gunhild A. Stordalen, Founder & Executive Chair of EAT. “EAT’s new digital platform, EAT@Home, will bring us together this fall and toward the UN Food Systems Summit 2021. EAT@Home will be a participatory series of live broadcasts, workshops, events and maybe even a party. Join us to turn our reimagination into a radical transformation—together.”

About The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission – unchanged since 1913 – is to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Today the Foundation advances new frontiers of science, policy, and innovation to solve global challenges related to health, food, power, and economic mobility. As a science-driven philanthropy focused on building collaborative relationships with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation seeks to inspire and foster large-scale human impact by identifying and accelerating breakthrough solutions, ideas and conversations. In health, The Rockefeller Foundation has been working to improve global public health for more than a century – from eradicating hookworm in the American South, to launching the field of public health, to seeding the development of the life-saving yellow fever vaccine. The Foundation’s Precision Public Health initiative aims to empower community health systems and frontline health workers with the latest digital innovations – including more accurate and precise decision-making tools based on predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. For more information, sign up for their newsletter at and follow on Twitter at @RockefellerFdn.

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