Despite sustained attention from academics and policymakers over many years, it was the Covid-19 pandemic that brought the necessity of building and maintaining resilient food systems into public discourse. This paper laid out a framework to more effectively facilitate analysis of resilience in a food system context.

The authors argued that there needs to be a well-defined boundary for discussions around food systems resilience, and propose four questions to create the parameters for these discussions:

  • Resilience of what?
  • Resilience to what?
  • Resilience from whose perspective?
  • Resilience for how long?

The answers to these questions are interdependent, each informing the other. Responses will also depend on who answers these questions, and for whom.

Aerial view of warehouse worker standing by full, stacked crates of red-yellow apples.

Warehouse worker standing by crates of apples. Photo: Smederevac / iStock / Getty Imges Plus .

In order to explore these problems further, the authors proposed a “three-Rs” approach:

  • Robustness: protecting current outcomes from change
  • Recovery: returning to original outcomes after a shock
  • Reorientation: working with alternative outcomes before or after disruption

In current practice, most emphasis tends to fall on robustness and recovery, but reorientation has an important role to play in enabling negotiations between different food system actors.

The authors demonstrated that improving food system resilience requires adaptation. They argued that transforming food system resilience and outcomes necessitates adopting a strategy of reorientation, because unlike robustness and recovery, reorientation may offer the greatest potential for enacting structural change.

However, authors noted that desirable outcomes do not always align and trade-offs will need to be evaluated. The balance between food price and accessibility versus environmental impact, for instance, will require careful negotiation between different actors and stakeholders with different value sets and aims.