Sustainable Food Systems

Adequate nutrition is essential for health and well-being. Every person on this planet has the right to safe, sufficient and nutritious food and to be free from hunger. Yet, 793 million people, or one in every nine, are undernourished globally. Even when food is available and accessible, the nutrient quality of the food is often poor and people’s diets are often inadequate, monotonous and unbalanced. The result is a high prevalence of various forms of malnutrition that co-exist within most countries. Stunting and wasting are underlying causes of death in children under five, micronutrient deficiencies in particular vitamin A, iodine, iron and zinc affect over two billion people, and overweight and obesity have been increasing rapidly worldwide, affecting all population groups.

Aware and concerned about these facts, 164 Members of FAO and WHO attended the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), co-organized by FAO and WHO, in Rome, in November 2014. They were joined by 164 civil society and private sector organizations as well as other UN and intergovernmental organizations. At the conference, it was universally acknowledged that current food systems are being increasingly challenged to provide adequate, safe, diversified and nutrition rich food for all that contribute to healthy diets.

The Conference adopted the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and its Framework for Action, committing to act to eradicate hunger and prevent all forms of malnutrition worldwide. Among others, Member States committed to:

  • enhance sustainable food systems by developing coherent public policies from production to consumption across relevant sectors to provide year-round access to food that meets people’s nutrition needs and promote safe and diversified healthy diet.

One year later, in September 2015, at the historical global summit, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted to guide global development through 2030 while ensuring that no one would be left behind. The SDG Goal “to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture” as well as many other SDG goals reiterate and reinforce the commitments made at ICN2.

Further building momentum for nutrition, the Decade of Action on Nutrition from 2016 to 2025 was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in April 2016, following the recommendation of the ICN2. Its pillar 1 focuses on food systems for healthy, sustainable diets.

The Decade of Action creates an enabling political environment for turning commitments made into action but countries need further technical support in order to do that. FAO and WHO propose to hold an International Symposium on 1-2 December, 2016 to focus mainly on illustrating solutions to implement food systems related ICN2 Framework for Action recommendations. Participants will include government officials with policy-making and programme-design mandates coming from Health and Agriculture ministries.

Latest content relevant to Sustainable Food Systems

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Launch event: HLPE Report on Sustainable Forestry for Food Security and Nutrition

27/06/2017 - 27 June, FAO HQ, Rome At its 41st session in October 2014, the CFS requested the HLPE to prepare a study on Sustainable Forestry for Food Security and Nutrition, to feed into the CFS Plenary session [...]

Policy Guidance Series - Strengthening Sector Policies for Better Food Security and Nutrition Results

01/06/2017 -   Achieving the food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture goals by 2030 requires a coordinated set of actions on a number of fronts: coherent policies and programmes, an increase of [...]

Improving nutrition through enhanced food environments - Policy Brief No. 7

10/05/2017 - Today’s food systems are failing to drive improvements in nutrition. More than two billion people suffer from a serious lack of vitamins and minerals, and over 200 million children are stunted [...]

CFS Intersessional events on Nutrition

09/05/2017 - Mark your calendars for the two CFS Advancing Nutrition events in partnership with UNSCN! Investments for Healthy Food SystemsTuesday, 9 May 2017, 09:30 – 17:00, Red Room, FAO HQ, Rome and via [...]

Guidelines on assessing biodiverse foods in dietary surveys

13/03/2017 - Biodiversity is critical to the availability of nutrients in a diversified diet that supports health and well-being, as well as to the sustainability of the natural resource base upon which food [...]

Call for Applications - World Food System Summer School “Food Systems in Transition”

13/01/2017 - The ETH Zurich World Food System Center is pleased to announce the call for applications for this year’s: World Food System Summer School “Food Systems in Transition” to be [...]

Dr Hilal Elver, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food: Report A/71/282

01/09/2016 - The Report A/71/282, submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 70/154, is dedicated to reiterating the importance of a rights-based approach to “adequate food”, that is, nutritious [...]

Food and nutrition security and role of smallholder farms - challenges and opportunities

01/08/2016 - Enhancing smallholders’ production capacities and their economic and social resilience may have a positive impact on food security and nutrition at different levels. Given the importance of [...]

HLPE Report on Sustainable Agriculture Development for Food Security and Nutrition: What Roles for Livestock?

01/07/2016 - Agricultural development plays a major role in improving FSN: by increasing the quantity and diversity of food; as a driver of economic transformation; and, because agriculture is the main source of [...]

Milan Urban Food Policy Pact

01/10/2015 - Cities host over half the world’s population and have a strategic role to play in developing sustainable food systems and promoting healthy diets. While every city is different, they are all [...]

Key Recommendations for Improving Nutrition through Agriculture and Food Systems

01/07/2015 - Food systems provide for all people’s nutritional needs, while at the same time contributing to economic growth. The food and agriculture sector has the primary role in feeding people well by [...]

Sustainable Food Systems and Health - The convenient truth of addressing climate change while promoting health

01/06/2015 - Feeding the world sustainably and promoting good nutrition and health under a changing climate is one of the main challenges of our time. Changes in dietary patterns towards more production and [...]

HLPE Report on Water for Food Security and Nutrition

01/05/2015 - Water is key to human life. It is key to human food security and nutrition. Safe drinking water and sanitation are fundamental to the good nutrition, health and dignity of all. According to the latest [...]

HLPE Report on Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture for Food Security and Nutrition

01/06/2014 - The HLPE report Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture for Food Security and Nutrition addresses a frequently overlooked but extremely important part of world food and nutrition security: the role and [...]

SCN News 40: Changing Food Systems for Better Nutrition

12/06/2013 - Food systems are well placed to influence food production and the consumption patterns of nutritious foods necessary for a healthy and active live. The present food systems have evolved to [...]

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UNSCN Discussion Paper - By 2030, end all forms of malnutrition and leave no one behind The paper aims to present the centrality of nutrition in the current sustainable development agenda. It provides an overview of the numerous and inter-related nutrition targets that have been…
UNSCN Discussion Paper - Global Governance for Nutrition and the role of UNSCN This paper aims to describe the current nutrition architecture and provides a detailed overview of the main nutrition actors and their mandate. It highlights the role of UNSCN in the architecture…
UNSCN Discussion Paper - Impact Assessment of Policies to support Healthy Food Environments and Healthy Diets Outcomes and processes for accountability are sorely needed for assessing the impact of food systems policies on nutrition. The Framework for Action includes an adopted set of recommendations on…
UNSCN Discussion Paper - Investments for Healthy Food Systems In the ICN2 Rome Declaration Commitment 15, Member States committed to ‘increase investments for effective interventions and actions to improve people's diets and nutrition, including in…
UNSCN Discussion Paper - Enhancing Coherence between Trade Policy and Nutrition Action In Commitment 11 of the ICN2 Rome Declaration, Member States ‘acknowledge that trade is a key element in achieving food security and nutrition and that trade policies are to be conducive to…