About this Research Topic
The 2020 COVID pandemic has laid bare what has been widely appreciated for decades: global food systems lack the robustness, flexibility, or resilience to weather appreciable externally-imposed perturbations. Under COVID, food access is currently globally curtailed, disproportionately burdening the poor. In the U.K., the Food Standards Association (FSA) suggests that ≦ 30% of households with children have cut down or skipped meals in recent months due to financial challenges. The Brookings Institution estimated that food insecurity in U.S. households with children under 12 has risen by 40%. Correspondingly, virtually all U.S. food banks reported a demand increase averaging 59% in May compared to May ’19, with ≈40% of this rise attributed to customers who had never used food banks before.
These trends followed April’s price hikes, the greatest monthly increase in the past 50 years, dominated by meats, poultry, cereals, and fruits and vegetables. A key attribute of this collection that clearly distinguishes it from a companion earlier Frontiers collection is that all of these deleterious changes have reduced effective mean yields, raising environmental costs per unit product. These costs are not addressed in the earlier collection but are among our key foci here. On the other hand, our collection does not emphasize labor or such fundamentally biological issues as zoonotic or viral diseases, which the earlier collection does. This Research Topic thus picks up where the earlier one left off, with minimal overlap. Paradoxically, because of rigid, inflexible distribution networks, at the same time that U.S. food availability declined markedly, farmers have been discarding vast quantities of various foods. COVID has thus tested the modern food system, and it was found wanting. These failures are the starting point of this collection.
We are looking for papers that explore alternative paths to sustainable regional, national, and global food systems that can enhance flexibility, robustness, resilience, productivity, and nutrition while offering farmers reliable and predictable markets, all at reduced environmental costs.
Ideas we are eager to explore in this Research Topic include, but are not limited to:
1. Optimally balancing domestic and globalized food systems for enhanced equitable food access, environmental performance, nutritional quality, and public health outcomes, and reducing food waste.
2. Optimally balancing local (community-based) production and trade networks on scales ranging from local and regional to continental and global.
3. Potential roles of urban food systems, including neighborhood-level food-sharing programs, in enhancing food system robustness to reduce mobility and connectivity due to COVID-like perturbations.
4. Potential role(s) of Internet Communications Technologies and novel products and business models they enable in achieving the above goals, enhancing food system robustness in other ways, or enhance food system sustainability writ largely.
5. The role of governments and institutions in protecting food security for vulnerable populations or ones with special needs in future food systems under normal, anomalous, and emergency conditions.
Keywords: COVID-19, food access, food system, nutrition, national food systems, food waste, food-sharing programs, Internet Communications Technologies
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.