The 2021 Rural Development Report analyses the linkages between the prosperity of rural people and the transformation of food systems. Small-scale farmers, rural workers and entrepreneurs produce, process and distribute much of the world’s food, yet many are unable to earn a decent living. The report examines how opportunities in the food system can generate more diversified and equitable outcomes. The report distinguishes drivers, components and outcomes of food systems that interact against a backdrop of the wider food environment. It takes as its starting point the desired outcomes of food systems. The central challenge in transforming food systems is to optimize nutrition, livelihoods and environment while ensuring resilience. There are critical trade-offs to be navigated, most notably among keeping nutritious diets affordable, paying the true environmental costs of production and distribution, and enabling those who produce food to earn a decent living.