Amid COVID-19, the durability of our “food chain”—consisting of production, distribution, food service, ready-to-eat food, and restaurants—has been tested and, in some areas, broken beyond repair. In a new world beyond COVID-19, support from local communities will be essential to building and maintaining sustainable food systems.
This January, Professors Mariko Arata and Miki Yoshimizu from Ritsumeikan University’s College of Gastronomy Management leveraged Northwestern University’s Meridian 180 platform to foster a rich, transnational discussion on “Food and Agriculture Beyond the Pandemic.”
The discussion involved industry leaders, government representatives and academics from nine countries including Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, Italy, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, the U.S. and Vietnam, and brought a diverse range of perspectives on food security to the table. It also catalyzed an international symposium on the future of food and agriculture systems worldwide.
The Asia-Japan Research Institute and Research Center for Gastronomic Arts and Sciences at Ritsumeikan University co-hosted the symposium, which shed light on emerging food and agriculture trends including the diversification of food distribution channels, new online platforms for small, locally-rooted producers and more.
Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law professor and Meridian 180 member Leigh Bienen opened the symposium with remarks on the importance of food for humanity.
“Why do so many go hungry? Is it a failure of business, a failure of industry, of government, of communities, of individuals? All of the above,” Bienen said. “Never have we needed an international level of discussion and cooperation more than now in the middle of this pandemic but, even after the pandemic is over, we need increasing cooperation and discussion among people all over the world and from various disciplines,” she added. “Meridian 180 has helped us begin to address these questions. It has helped us recognize the interdisciplinary aspects of [food system] problems and discuss problems across countries and languages.”
The Meridian 180 community hopes its forum and the international symposium that followed will catalyze new research and initiatives that improve the sustainability of food systems worldwide.