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SOFI report acknowledges urgent need for food systems transformation

The 2020 State of Food Security and Nutrition (SOFI) report released on July 13 jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other UN agencies confirms the alarming trend in increasing figures of people globally affected by hunger and all forms of malnutrition.

Last year, the global number of people suffering from hunger went up to 690 million, a number which could rise to 840 million by 2030. In only 4 years, the number of people suffering from severe food insecurity increased by 27.3%.  An additional 83 to 132 million people could go hungry only in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even without the negative effects of COVID-19, SOFI insists that the world is not on track to achieve the Zero Hunger by 2030 target of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2.

This year`s SOFI included a special focus on transforming food systems for affordable healthy diets. An estimated 3 billion people worldwide cannot afford healthy diets including a diversity of products due to high food price and lack of income. At the same time, the report acknowledges that current dietary patterns lead to hidden costs that societies have to pay, such as for health care and greenhouse gas emission compensations. Therefore, SOFI concludes that a shift towards more sustainable and healthy diets would be less costly for society as a whole, and calls for transformative changes in food systems that make “healthy diets with sustainability considerations” more affordable.

While the report acknowledges the health and climate-related externalities of diets, SOFI does not look into the social costs of the dominant industrial food system, such as land grabbing practices, labour exploitation and gender inequality, especially for small-scale food producers, peasants, fishers, pastoralists, indigenous peoples and urban poor.

Overall, SOFI fails to understand hunger and malnutrition as a human rights violation. FIAN International claims for the need to adopt a right to food perspective which looks into the structural causes of the unaffordability of healthy diets, such as the colonial heritage of the global division in food production or policies that promote export-oriented staple cash crops at the expense of healthy, diverse and traditional food for domestic consumption.

The report also falls short in mentioning agroecology as an alternative mode of production as well as the need for localized food systems based on the concept of food sovereignty, which are key to strengthen resilience and ensure food access, especially in times of crisis.

Charlotte Dreger, Sustainable Food Systems Officer at FIAN International, states “Real food system transformation requires a holistic and systemic perspective based on human rights.  Those most affected by hunger and malnutrition must shape this transformation. Their voices must be heard in decision making spaces such as the current negotiation of the UN World Food Security Committee’s Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition as well as in the preparation of the UN Food Systems Summit for 2021.”


Notes to Editors:

The 2020 SOFI report serves as an input to the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit whose overarching goal is to help stakeholders better understand and manage complex choices that affect the future of food systems and accelerate progress towards achieving the SDGs by 2030. Over 550 Civil Society organizations have signed a letter to the UN Secretary General in March 2020 formulating their concerns about the process that is likely to benefit transnational corporations and global financial capital instead.

The State of the Right to Food and Nutrition Report of the Global Network on the Right to Food and Nutrition, to be published on 22 July, serves as a complementary report to SOFI. The report provides a qualitative and human rights analysis to hunger and malnutrition which is absent from SOFI.

A more in depth analysis on the SOFI report will be furthermore included in the upcoming third Monitoring Report on the Right to Food and Nutrition during COVID 19 in September 2020.

For media enquiries, please contact Charlotte Dreger,, or Daniel Fyfe,