New food think tank addresses world’s ‘broken food system’

People around the world are dying of starvation while others are killed by obesity. This broken model needs fixing, says new organisation Food Tank

Around one billion people around the world do not have enough to eat, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, yet at the same time obesity has more than doubled over the last three decades.

Furthermore, the World Health Organisation says two-thirds of the world’s population live in countries where obesity kills more people than hunger. According to a new US-based think tank, these statistics add up to a global food system that needs fixing.

“Our food system is broken. Some people don’t have enough food, while others are eating too much,” say Ellen Gustafson and Danielle Nierenberg, the founders of Food Tank, a new group hoping to spur change by bringing together producers, decision-makers and researchers around the world to identify ways to feed the world more fairly.

Launched at the end of 2012, Food Tank is focused on the practical. “As much as we need new thinking on global food system issues, we also need new doing,” say Gustafson and Nierenberg.

One example of the ‘doing’ that Food Tank is championing is a project that is making use of solar technology to boost food production in West Africa. In countries that have wet and dry seasons, irrigation can double crop output, but diesel-powered pumps are expensive to run and moving water by hand is hard work and time-consuming.

In Benin, a US-based organisation called Solar Electric Light Fund is working with small farmers to set up solar-powered, low-pressure drip irrigation systems that mean that crops can be grown during dry months. The Food Tank team say they want to highlight more of this sort of innovative thinking – ideas that are already working ‘on the ground’ in cities, kitchens, fields and laboratories.

Gustafson and Nierenberg add: “These innovations need more attention, more research, and ultimately more funding to be replicated and scaled-up.“