Food Systems and the Food-Water-Energy Nexus


Food Systems and the Food-Water-Energy Nexus

Globally, we’re on the verge of an unprecedented food crisis. Even before the pandemic, 135 million people are estimated to be exposed to acute food shortages (1).

However, food production is not the problem. It is estimated that up to 40% of food produced in the United States is never eaten, and 1 in 8 are food insecure (2). The pandemic compounds these fears, with an estimated 50 million globally expected to fall into extreme poverty, whose nutrition implications could affect generations (3), and push 265 million people altogether to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020 (1).

How will we continue to feed a world of 7.8 billion people? You will find crisis rhetoric in popular discussions of food access, availability, safety and security. Geographical approaches call our attention to broader issues of social justice, public health and the spatial dynamics of food production and distribution (4). We cannot address crises of food production without understanding inequalities, social and environmental (5).

Food security is also inextricably linked to water and energy development, as food production withdraws 70% of global freshwater and consumes 25% of global energy (6). Therefore, we have to understand both the historical and the evolving interactions between the food, energy, and water systems to better inform food security policies.

This semester, the Department of Geography will be taking an in-depth look at how food security is impacted across space, across places, and across people. We’ll discuss the sustainability of the current system and food sources. As we evaluate the status quo, these posts will also address the future outlook for agriculture in our communities, the marketability and economic changes that would need to occur, as well as the logistical hurdles to provide for a growing population to ensure food security for all.

  4. Gatrell, J. D., Reid, N., & Ross, P. (2011). Local food systems, deserts, and maps: The spatial dynamics and policy implications of food geography. Applied Geography, 31(4), 1195–1196.
  5. Hammelman, C., Reynolds, K., & Levkoe, C. Z. (2020). Toward a radical food geography praxis: Integrating theory, action, and geographic analysis in pursuit of more equitable and sustainable food systems. Human Geography, 13(3), 211–227.