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Publication | 2 March 2021

Impacts of COVID-19 on people’s food security: Foundations for a more resilient food system

The assessment is based on 377 documents covering 62 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania and the Americas.

The analysis reveals that the dimension of food security that has been most affected is accessibility. Both financial (affordability) and physical access to food have been disrupted, in particular in urban areas and in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). As a result, proximity and convenience have been affected with a degradation in food choice and diversity.

In contrast, there is no clear evidence that the availability of food has been affected beyond some initial disruptions and there is not enough information to provide robust conclusions about the effects of the pandemic on the utilization of food (safety or quality).

Finally, the impact of COVID-19 on the nutritional status of people is still poorly documented but expected to be substantial in the long run.

Overall, food systems ‘resisted’ the shock and no major episodes of severe food shortage were observed. At the same time, a group of actors was able to take advantage of the crisis: grocery stores and supermarkets. On the contrary, hundreds of thousands of smaller or informal food system actors disappeared during the crisis. No empirical evidence is available to back-up the hypothesis that local food systems are more resilient than global ones.

The report concludes that the ‘right’ investment or policy should be driven, not by resilience considerations, but by the more important objective of making those food systems more sustainable, that is, socially more equitable, nutritionally healthier, inclusive, and environmentally sounder. To support decision-making, mapping the different sources of vulnerability that affect particular actors (e.g. processors, retailers or street vendors), commodities (e.g. fruits, vegetables), markets (open, closed) or value chains (e.g. small livestock) in low-income countries should be a priority.

Impacts of COVID-19 on people’s food security: Foundations for a more resilient food system

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