Superfoods can’t save our broken system – but Smart Food can
“Superfoods” is a catchword that has found popularity among the most health-conscious consumers. However, the concept of these nutritionally dense and healthy foods only focuses on one aspect of the complex global food system.
With experts increasingly raising the alarm that our food system is broken, we need a different narrative which captures not only the role of food in nourishing our bodies, but also the connections between agriculture, the environment, and farmers’ livelihoods.
While superfoods provide a useful shorthand for the most nutritious foods available – often only to the most privileged – we need a popular food movement that is accessible to all, from the rural poor and growing urban populations all the way to the global elite.
Transforming the Global Food System
Smart Food is the concept behind such a movement, designed to address all aspects of the global food system by being good for the consumer, good for the planet, and good for the farmer.
Adopting a Smart Food approach can tackle some of the biggest challenges simultaneously, including malnutrition and other diet-related health issues, rural poverty, and adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. The foods that meet these criteria already exist, but how do we use them to transform our global food system?
To have the greatest impact, Smart Food must be mainstreamed as staples in global diets to complement today’s three most consumed crops: rice, wheat, and maize. This is especially important for Africa and Asia where these “Big 3” staple crops can form up to 70 percent of meals, three times a day. Rice, wheat, and maize account for half of the global calories consumed.
Diversification of Diets: Millet and Sorghum
The biggest challenge to mainstreaming Smart Food is the “food system divide,” in which the majority of investment and research is directed towards the “Big 3:” rice, wheat, and maize. Some 45 percent of private sector investment is channeled into maize alone.
But a focused effort can set the wheels in motion for a smarter food system, starting with just one or two Smart Foods. By slowly increasing the staples from the “Big 3” to the “Big 5” (adding millet and sorghum) and then beyond, we can successfully achieve the diversification that our diets need to be sustainable.
To spearhead this transformation, the Smart Food initiative – led by Asian and African networks – has identified millet and sorghum as the first Smart Foods.
Millet and sorghum were originally the staples across many countries in Asia and Africa before the 1966 – 1985 Green Revolution, which focused energy on developing and improving rice and wheat. And there are enormous benefits to the consumer, planet, and farmer from these crops once again becoming a mainstay of food systems.
Read the full article by Yemi Akinbamijo, CEO of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) on https://theglobepost.com/2019/12/31/smart-foods/