Progress on farm productivity and food loss and waste has been impactful and can help address adverse environmental consequences, but it is not sufficient to meet today’s food challenges. During the 20th century, governments, food and beverage companies, farmers and other actors developed a food system that optimizes for yield and calories. This was appropriate in a world marked by hunger and sometimes starvation. However, it has resulted in unintended consequences over time.
Today, nearly 2 billion people suffer from some form of malnutrition, and diet quality is now the number-one contributing factor to deaths and disabilities worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. At the same time, agriculture and livestock production are key drivers of global warming and environmental degradation, with meat production accounting for nearly 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions – more than the entire transportation sector. To improve health outcomes and prompt more sustainable food production, the food system needs to produce and directly encourage the consumption of a more diverse basket of nutritious foods.
At The Rockefeller Foundation, we aim to create a food system that nourishes all people, sustains and regenerates the environment and enables the flourishing of culture and community. We are making new investments to promote dietary patterns high in protective foods – such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains – that are critical to nourishing a growing population in a sustainable manner. These foods, which protect us from disease when consumed at optimal quantities, are currently under-consumed.
We will launch a number of new initiatives focused on protective foods. Some of our investments apply globally, while others will serve as proof points in target regions, tailored to the local context. This work will build on our existing portfolios including YieldWise Food Loss, launched in 2016, which aims to halve food loss and waste, YieldWise Food Waste, focused on food waste in the U.S., and the Alliance for Green Revolution (AGRA), launched in 2006, which is focused on doubling yield and incomes for African farmers.
Focusing on both human health and the environment, we have to fundamentally rethink food systems for a growing and ever wealthier global population to ensure nutritious food is more accessible, available and affordable to everyone around the world.
By implementing behavior change interventions and incentivizing increased procurement of protective foods at anchor institutions such as healthcare facilities and schools, we can improve the diets of millions low-income individuals within ten years and send significant signals up the supply chain that protective foods are valued and needed.
We can help increase efficiency and upgrade infrastructure by crowding in technical assistance and leveraging public-private investment for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) focused on important protective food supply chain innovations, including cold chain, transport, logistics, data analytics and aquaculture.
We can help increase our understanding of the food to advance a more nourishing and sustainable food system. Our projects will aim to spur scientific advancement in understanding the biochemical composition of food that contributes to health and wellbeing to ensure uptake, scale, and sustainability of protective food programs and to generate positive and attainable visions of the future of the food system.
About 70 percent of sub-Saharan Africans depend on agriculture for their livelihoods—and smallholder farmers account for 90 percent of food production in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, many farmers barely produce enough food to feed their families, leaving no money for investing in tools and technologies that could increase yields. To date, AGRA has invested over $460 million towards 874 projects, reaching 15 million African farmers.
YieldWise launched in 2016 to reduce food loss by focusing on fruits, vegetables, and staple crops in Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania—countries where up to half of all food grown is lost. In just 4 years, we helped achieve a post-harvest loss reduction of 20-30 percent across all value chains in East Africa and increased the incomes and livelihoods of more than 300,000 farmers.
Since the launch of Yieldwise in 2016, our partners have engaged more than 30 U.S. cities in food waste prevention programs, launched the Hotel Kitchen waste management program in 18 countries, and identified more than 100M tons of surplus food per year than can be rescued and redistributed to American families.