Modern food systems operate on a global scale, and many countries depend on imported food to feed their populations. The proportion of people eating according to their traditional dietary patterns is declining in most continents, with cheap ultra-processed foods becoming more easily available and infiltrating the food chains of even the hardest-to-reach corners of the world. At the same time, intensive farming methods, inequities in food distribution, and the high rate of food wastage raise concerns about the sustainability and environmental impact of food production at the scale required to feed the globe. International shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic and regional conflicts have a palpable effect on food production, storage and distribution and exacerbate many of these issues. For these reasons, food and nutrition insecurity is a major global concern.
At the 8th Summit, this sub-theme generated discussion on many of these issues, particularly their implications for nutrition and health. In some cases, digital technologies are being used to protect and enhance traditional farming and dietary practices. In India, we heard about the use of participatory film-making and a digital voice response system as tools to empower local communities to record and share traditional dietary knowledge and practices. On a larger scale, the use of blockchain technology for increasing transparency and traceability in the food chain could become commonplace. Other key discussions centred on how digital technologies are being harnessed to shape future food systems and how such shifts will depend upon the evolution of agriculture and ecology, human culture, education and communication, and the technologies that underpin and span these domains.
One of the NNEdPro’s flagship food-based projects is the Mobile Teaching Kitchen (MTK) initiative. First established in Indian slum communities, the MTK uses a microenterprise model to train local women to prepare nutritious traditional foods and, in turn, train others to do the same, thus providing education, employment and an income alongside potential health benefits. The 8th Summit included updates on the progress of this project. The MTK model is being replicated in Mexico and the USA, and strategies to utilise digital technology to magnify the impact of the model were explored. Other food-based initiatives such as ‘kid’s kitchens’, ‘digital kitchens’, and digital apps to assist individuals and families in choosing healthy food options were all initiatives that garnered further discussion.
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