Posted on Mar 27, 2024
Last week, RCFC “unofficial” member Mo Salman shared his observations and work during his presentation - National and Global Food Sustainability: Facts and Related Issues. 
Mo started with a little bio. He was born and raised in Baghdad. Not a slow starter, he graduated from high school at age 15 and vet school at age 20 and started working as a vet in Lebanon, Oman, UAE. There he treated camels but benefited most from what he learned from the lives and philosophy of their owners, the Beduoins.  Also, he treated goats (with limited meds) allowing him unusual access to women in that society since they were the caretakers of the goats.
Next stop was Chicago where Mo learned how to shovel snow while running a small animal practice.  He quickly learned how “well off” (spoiled?) the inhabitants of America were. Next stop was CA (UC) where he got a master’s and ultimately a PhD (comparative pathology) before joining CSU in 1982.
The term Food Security was best defined in the 1996 World Food Summit as “when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.  Food sustainability is best defined as “producing food in a way that protects the environment, makes efficient use of natural resources, ensures that farmers can support themselves, and enhances the quality of life in communities that produce food, including the animals as well as the people” (Arizona State U).
In 2011 Mo and grad student Karyn Havas published a scientific paper addressing the meaning of these two concepts with examples focusing on the concept of “food defense”. The “wholesomeness” of food is especially important.  Mo shared a map published in the 1990s in Time Magazine (source USDA) showing the % of household consumption expenses going to food in various countries.  The range was from 7% in the US to 43% in Indonesia. Updated in 2021 the US still only spent 13.4 % of family income on food (cf alcohol at 15.9% and education -3.5%!). 
The Global Food Index in 2022 showed a decline in the for the third year. One hundred and thirteen countries were graded, and the US scored number 13th in food security and sustainability (albeit best in quality and safety).
We can also look at food sustainability according to 3 components – social, economic and environment.  Each has its own components but all 3 interact with one another - from the time of fertilization until the time of consumption. There are also 3 global components linked to one another - global health, global food security and climate change. 
But it’s a “wicked” problem, composed of complex interdependencies where an effort to solve one aspect of a problem creates or reveals other problems. In this sense, “wicked” implies resistance to resolution. Thomas Friedman used the terms “hot, flat and crowded” to illustrate the state of the world and those dynamics that make food security and sustainability possibly beyond (hopefully not) our control. What is needed is balance and harmony so we can deal with these interactions between global health, climate changes and population growth.