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, undernourished is rampant. 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.

According to the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition, a food system “gathers all the elements (environment, people, inputs, processes, infrastructures, instructions, etc.) and activities that relate to the production, processing, distribution, preparation and consumption of food, and the outputs of these activities, including socio-economic and environmental outcomes.

At the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), it was universally acknowledged that current food systems are being increasingly challenged to provide adequate, safe, diversified and nutritious food for all that contribute to healthy diets. The Conference adopted the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and its Framework for Action, committing 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 (2016 to 2025) was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in April 2016, following the recommendation of the ICN2. Its Action Areas focuses on food systems for healthy, sustainable diets. Find out more about the Nutrition Decade here.

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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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

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Nutrition security of urban populations: A call for attention and joint action by UNSCN

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Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food: Report A/HRC/19/59

26/12/2011 - In the Report A/HRC/19/59, submitted to the Human Rights Council in accordance with Council resolution 13/4, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food addresses the links between health and [...]

Double Pyramid: healthy food for people, sustainable food for the planet

01/01/2010 - Modern lifestyles tend to have a growing impact on the ecological equilibrium of our Planet. Particularly in the area of diet, models of consumption inconsistent with the goals of environmental [...]

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UNSCN Brief “Non-communicable diseases, diets and nutrition” Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are now the leading cause of mortality worldwide; they are responsible for 70% of global deaths; equivalent to 40 million people. The health and economic repercussions…
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Guidance Note for UN Humanitarian Coordinators: Integrated multi-sectoral nutrition actions - Nutrition Cluster Integrated multi-sectoral nutrition actions to achieve global and national nutrition-related SDG targets, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected states Reaching the most vulnerable populations…