The COVID-19 outbreak and the disruptions resulting from it, in our view emphasize the need to further work on securing future food systems that are resilient, sustainable, innovative, adaptive and inclusive. Enhancing all these properties together allows complex systems like food systems to better be able to deal with sudden shocks such as pandemics. While those working throughout the food systems continue to work tirelessly to achieve food and nutrition security for the world’s population, crises like these expose the vulnerabilities of our current food systems. Disruptive events can lead to severe problems in for instance global markets, food supply chains, food security and socio-cultural dimensions of food consumption. We observe emerging and uncomfortable trade-offs between social, economic, environmental and health related dynamics in food systems.

The Athena Institute is committed to continue working on future-proofing food systems through transformation of research and innovation (R&I), for instance through the FIT4FOOD2030 project or the SUPREME NUDGE project. Current events reveal the need to adopt holistic approaches in food systems research and governance. Such systemic approaches help to identify and mitigate undesirable dynamics such as trade-offs, but also to find synergies between different sectors and policy fields. It might allow us to better identify leverage points where intervention for transformation can be most successful. Current events also stress the societal relevance of research and innovation, while highlighting the importance and challenges of integrating the different visions and views of the many different stakeholders operating in the system to find (policy) solutions. This further motivates us to continue in articulating systems approaches and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI).