Mark McGlinn

Founding Director of the Foodservice Network

Fire has been essential for cooking since before the dawn of civilisation. In many places across the world, traditional methods – cooking on an open fire or stove – have been replaced by gas or electricity, yet continued use of solid biomass fuels in traditional stoves across the developing world is seriously affecting the health of people who are already vulnerable.

Somalia is on the brink of catastrophe. A recent assessment suggests that 7.7 million Somalis need emergency aid right now, a similar number to those affected by the Ethiopian famine in 1984, one of the worst humanitarian disasters in history. About one million people died then.

Rising competition for many of the world’s important crops is sending increasing amounts toward uses other than directly feeding people. These competing uses include making biofuels; converting crops into processing ingredients, such as livestock meal, hydrogenated oils and starches; and selling them on global markets to countries that can afford to pay for them.

Over the past decade, food businesses have created detailed maps of the terrain they wish to 'conquer' and developed operational guides and strategic briefs on how to achieve this. With COVID-19, the maps are really no longer accurate and many of the accompanying operational guides, no longer instructive.

The Food Foundation now estimates at least three million people in the UK depend on food banks. HASPhotos
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Tim Lang, City, University of London; Erik P Millstone, University of Sussex, and Terry Marsden, Cardiff University

Planning failures and financial cuts are being exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the world of food, too, planning is needed both to deal with short-term emergencies and to address longer-term risks.

Megan Blake, Senior Lecturer in Geography, University of Sheffield

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed just how much we depend on easy access to food. The beginning of the UK’s lockdown saw the closure of restaurants and pubs, and empty supermarket shelves. The number of people who are struggling to access food because of financial difficulties has dramatically swelled.

The arrival of online food delivery platforms, bringing greater choice and convenience, has revolutionized the way we purchase and consume food. The capability of ordering food for delivery with a single tap of your mobile phone, whether it be your weekly supply, a meal box or a hot and ready to eat meal is the result of a series of technological and digital innovations that have as yet to run their full course.

Blockchain technology could solve food safety and fraud by enabling immediate traceability to the point of origin. (Shutterstock)
 

Sylvain Charlebois, Dalhousie University

There has been a lot of noise on cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin of late. While some suggest cryptocurrencies are a fraud, others believe them to be the next biggest economic revolution the world has seen since the internet. Bitcoin has brought to light blockchain technology, which offers great potential for food safety and verification in the agrifood sector. Yet it is far from being the panacea for a range of issues affecting the industry — at least for now.

The exponential growth in home food delivery is changing not only the way we purchase and consume food, it is also changing the way Restaurants and Food Retailers design and build their restaurants and shops.

Amazon, without doubt, has been broadening the reach of the world's most advanced logistics platform and is now sharpening its focus on food. Food management (production, packaging, service, delivery, etc) is however a very complex business and Amazon's recent closure of its restaurant delivery service in the UK is very likely to be a full acknowledgement of this. 

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