No single pathway to resilience – final Programme report

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The Resilience of the UK Food System in a Global Context (GFS FSR) has released its final Programme Report, outlining multiple approaches to enhancing resilience.

The Report contains general recommendations as well as tailored messages for a range of stakeholders in government, agri-food businesses, NGOs, and investment and research sectors.

Key messages from the report

Discussions on how to enhance food system resilience need to be framed by the answers to four key questions:
    • Where do we need to increase resilience?
    • What do we need to build resilience against?
    • From whose perspective is enhanced resilience needed?
    • Over what time period is enhanced resilience needed?
There are three strategies for enhancing resilience – the ‘3R’s.
    • Robustness: aim to resist disruption to existing food system outcomes
    • Recovery: aim to return to existing food system outcomes after disruption
    • Reorientation: aim to accept alternative food system outcomes before or after disruption

All three strategies require adapting food system activities.

Messages for specific stakeholders

  • Government policy formulation should take a whole food system approach across government departments and agencies and spatial, temporal and jurisdictional levels
  • Industry should proactively address the negative relationship between food price on one hand, and food system sustainability and resilience on the other
  • NGOs covering multiple agenda should play a more substantial, evidence-based role in holding government and business to account
  • Finance and investment sectors should include short and long-term financial stress testing of their portfolios to a wide range of exposures
  • Researchers and funders will have an increasingly important role in helping to enhance the resilience of the UK food system. Key issues to boost research impact include:
      • promoting a circular food economy
      • prioritising stakeholder co-design
      • facilitating relationship building between researchers and stakeholders
      • removing systemic barriers to stakeholder inclusion
      • minimising ‘stakeholder fatigue’
      • promoting more rigorous boundary setting
      • enhancing cross-Council, and UKRI-foundation collaboration
      • maintaining the newly-found emphasis on food system research.

Dr John Ingram, Coordination Team Lead on the GFS FSR Programme and head of the Food Systems Transformation Group at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford said: “Together, the Projects have produced a rich and diverse set of outputs that help to further our understanding of how to move towards a more resilient food system.

“What’s become clear since we embarked on the Programme is that there is no single route towards this goal. Furthermore, due to the complexity of the system, unless a systems approach is taken, actions to enhance resilience in one part of the system may not result in system-wide benefit, and indeed may even undermine another part.

“Over the past five years, the Programme has successfully engaged with a wide range of food system stakeholders. We hope this distillation of the research into meaningful messages will aid those working in the food system to put many of the Programme’s insights into practice.”

Dr Riaz Bhunnoo, Director of the Global Food Security programme, said: “The recent pandemic has underlined the importance of a resilient food system. With climate change coming down the line, it is more important than ever that we drive interdisciplinary research on food system resilience into policy and practice. The FSR programme has been instrumental in driving this agenda forward.”

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