Transformation of food systems is key to addressing malnutrition, non-communicable diseases, climate change and other global health challenges of the 21st century, a new research study says.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Jan 2022), presents a synthesis of the 22nd Annual Harvard Nutrition Obesity Symposium held in June 2021 entitled ‘Global Food Systems and Sustainable Nutrition in the 21st Century’.

The symposium was a collaboration between the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at Harvard and the Harvard Medical School Division of Nutrition and was organized ahead of the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) in September 2021.

A food system includes all the aspects of feeding and nourishing people: growing, harvesting, packaging, processing, transporting, marketing and consuming food.

The authors of the study note that the nutrition and health communities have a significant role to play in ensuring that food systems produce affordable, nutritious and safe food in an equitable manner that safeguards environmental sustainability.

“Food systems need to be better managed and governed to ensure that food system transformation is redesigned to improve nutrition and health, ensure environments are sustainable and resilient, promote fair and equitable livelihoods, and mitigate climate change,” the authors state.

CGIAR-affiliated scientists Delia Grace and Namukolo Covic are among the co-authors of the study.

Delia Grace is professor of food safety systems at the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich and joint-appointed scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Namukolo Covic is the ILRI Director General’s Representative to Ethiopia and previously served as senior research coordinator for the CGIAR Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Citation

Fanzo, J., Rudie, C., Sigman, I., Grinspoon, S., Benton, T.G., Brown, M.E., Covic, N., Fitch, K., Golden, C.D., Grace, D., Hivert, M.-F., Huybers, P., Jaacks, L.M., Masters, W.A., Nisbett, N., Richardson, R.A., Singleton, C.R., Webb, P. and Willett, W.C. 2022. Sustainable food systems and nutrition in the 21st century: A report from the 22nd Annual Harvard Nutrition Obesity Symposium. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 115(1): 18–33.

Photo credit: Fruit and vegetable on sale in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ILRI/Geraldine Klarenberg)