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Food system components

Katrien Ghoos, UN World Food Programme (WFP) talks through the components of a generalised food system
What is a food system? We are looking from food production up to food consumption. For example, a subsistence farmer obviously consumes very much what he’s producing. But households that do need to access their food in the market, they will need to make choices based on attractiveness of foods. And some of these foods obviously went through different types, different series of processing those foods. Because those foods– from producer to consumer through the market– need to be transported, refrigerated sometimes, transformed to have a longer shelf life, etc. All of these additional steps influence nutrient value of those foods, ultimately leading to better or worse nutrient intake of the consumer accessing those foods– again, depending on their affordability, acceptability, and availability.
That supply chain of food going from a producer up to consumer is influenced by its environment. This environment has different components, obviously different types of policies– looking at pricing policies, agricultural policies, health policies. Obviously, other factors that influence this supply chain is influenced by markets. How do people make choices? What are their preferences? The foods available in the supply chain, of course are also a result of research and development, technology that is available to make those foods available for a longer time. And we’re also looking at environmental impact of some of those foods available in the market. Obviously, media, education, awareness-raising campaigns, or advertising can influence the choices of the consumer.
So while the food system is a dynamic undertaking between the supply and demand, this entire chain is very much influenced by the environment under which it operates. Therefore, food systems are unique and need to be looked at in their specific environment.
We have seen already discussed key actors and activities in food systems, as well as the natural resources which underpin these activities. Here, Katrien Ghoos, from the World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Bureau of Asia and the Pacific, helps us better visualise how the different components of food systems, from production to consumption, are linked to actors.
She also introduces five categories of influences on the food supply chain (arrow pointing to the right) and value chain (arrow pointing to the left), which you can see in the figure below.


Think of an example of a food system you are familiar with. What are the most important influences you see on this food system – policies, markets, social organisations, science and technology, or the biophysical environment?
Food system components and influencing actors Food system components and influencing actors (IOM (Institute of Medicine) and NRC (National Research Council, 2015).


IOM and NRC (2015). A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System. M.C. Nesheim, M. Oria and P.T. Yih (eds.). Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. National Academies Press, Washington, DC.
Please note that the views expressed in this video are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the views of the WFP.
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Food and Our Future: Sustainable Food Systems in Southeast Asia

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