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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CFS-UNSCN Intersessional events on Nutrition

09/05/2017 - Investments for Healthy Food Systems Tuesday, 9 May 2017, 09:30 – 17:00, Red Room, FAO HQ, Rome and via webcast. The event increased common understanding about how policies and investment [...]

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 [...]

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UNSCN Discussion Paper - Water and Nutrition. Harmonizing actions for the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition and the UN Water Action Decade Progress for both SDG 2 and SDG 6 has been unsatisfactory, with several indicators worsening over time, including an increase in the number of undernourished, overweight and obese people, as well…
UNSCN Discussion Paper Urban-Rural Linkages for Nutrition. Territorial approaches for sustainable development The nutrition challenges facing the world of today are daunting. One out of three people suffers from at least one form of malnutrition, and current trends suggest this may increase in the coming…
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…
Guidance Note on Integration of Nutrition in the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (renamed Cooperation Framework) The purpose of this Guidance Note is to assist United Nations Country Teams (UNCTs) with the integration of nutrition into the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework that…
UNSCN Discussion Paper - Schools as a System to Improve Nutrition Given the changing circumstances in the nutrition landscape, there is a need to reassess and reiterate the role of the schools in improving health and nutritional status of children. This discussion…