FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Regional Symposium: Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets in Europe and Central Asia

Budapest, Hungary, 04/12/2017 - 05/12/2017

Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets in Europe and Central Asia

A joint FAO/WHO Regional Symposium and initiative

in collaboration with UNICEF and WFP

Achieving healthy diets, adequate nutrition, good health and wellbeing for all in a sustainable manner while managing responsibly natural resources are at the core of the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals. Economic growth and rising incomes have nearly eliminated hunger and undernutrition in Europe and Central Asia. However, malnutrition in various forms still persist and co-exist in various proportions with noticeable differences between countries in the region with more than 55 percent of adults in Europe and Central Asia region being overweight or obese and millions suffering from anaemia, iodine, zinc, or vitamins A and D deficiencies. Low quality diets is number one risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and a main contributor to high DALY (Disability Adjusted Life Years) values in the region, especially in countries of Eastern Europe with rapid rise in income levels over the last two decades.

Promotion of sustainable food systems for healthy diets
Current food systems need to be reshaped from just supplying enough food to sustainably providing diverse, nutritious and safe food and high-quality diets for all. The international processes provided favourable frameworks to leverage food systems for better nutrition. Thus, the ICN2 highlighted a series of fundamental policies with high potential to address all types of malnutrition, such as raising the nutrition sensitivity of food systems and their sustainability, improving policy coherence and synergy across relevant sectors with impact on nutrition, as well as strengthening nutrition governance and accountability. The 2030 Agenda placed high priority on addressing malnutrition by committing under the SDG2 to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” and the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition provides a unique opportunity for governments, academia, civil society and other stakeholders to work together over coming years toward eradication and prevention of all forms of malnutrition in all countries, including by promoting improvements in diet quality through sustainable and resilient food systems.

A major constraint towards a more comprehensive food system approach is often lack of awareness and to certain degree hard evidence about the actual and potential impacts of policy and programmatic action that crosses traditional sectoral boundaries and addresses issues in a joined-up manner. To support current efforts to promote better understanding and application in practice of food system perspective the European and Central Asian region, the FAO/WHO Regional Symposium “Sustainable food systems for healthy diets and improved nutrition” will provide a platform for multi-sectoral consultation, exchange of knowledge, views, practical solutions, good practices, experiences and lessons learned from the implementation of policy options and strategies to improve the nutritional status and health of all groups of population, available options that each food systems’ element can bring to address dietary gaps and opportunities for multi-sectoral alignment and coherence, actions to leverage for sustainability.

Thematic areas
The symposium will discuss ways to address the multiple challenges of all forms of malnutrition and identify opportunities to address them in a multi-sectorally integrated manner through four thematic areas that are essential for achieving healthy, diversified and balanced diets:

  • Nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food systems: policies, programmes, good practices and initiatives throughout the food system to ensure the availability, access and affordability of varied, safe and healthy diets; food environment, policies for rural and urban sustainable food systems, their interconnections and drivers that shape agricultural production, post-harvest/food loss and waste, mitigation and adaptation to climate change; 
  • Food demand and food environment: Policies, practices and initiatives to promote and ensure awareness of food and nutrition, informed choices and demand of diverse, safe and nutritious food and healthy diets, sustainable consumption considering the environmental impact and climate change mitigation policies;
  • Improving nutrition of vulnerable groups: Policies, programmes, initiatives, practices to promote an enabling environment for sustainable nutrition-sensitive food systems for healthy diets and improved nutrition of various food insecurity and nutrition-vulnerable groups of population;
  • Governance, leadership and accountability for nutrition: Policies, practices and initiatives to strengthen the leadership capacities in food and nutrition, including the competencies in nutrition policies and programmes in middle- and high level managers and application of systematic evidence generation for nutrition-enhancing budget allocation and investments.


  • Support countries to operationalize the ICN2 FfA to contribute ultimately to achievements of the World Health Assembly and SDGs targets, as well as to national and regional priorities;
  • Engage into the process launched by ICN2, the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition and the FAO/WHO International Symposium on Food Systems for Healthy Diets and Improved Nutrition ; 
  • Leverage the potential of food systems for healthy diets and improved nutrition in a multi-sectorial collaborative and coherent manner.

Expected outcomes

  • Increased awareness on international processes relevant for achieving high quality diets and improved nutrition, their linkages with 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and SDGs, and contributions of various sectors;
  • Increased understanding of high potential role of sustainable food systems for healthy diets and improved nutrition and of systemic changes necessary to promote;
  • Enhanced policy coherence and collaboration between line sectors (agriculture, health, education, social protection, finance) to work throughout the food system for initiating actions to promote better diets and address malnutrition in all its forms in line with ICN2 outcome documents and Work Programme of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition;
  • Shared knowledge, experiences, good practices in food policy development and strengthened policy capacity of national experts to formulate efficient inter-sectorally based programmes for sustainable school food and nutrition and targeting other nutrition-vulnerable groups;
  • Agreed strategic priority areas or action, practical entry points, and policy recommendations for FAO Regional Conference-2018 and Round Table of Ministers, and inform the governing bodies of other UN Agencies on practical entry points for a regional roadmap with concerted core policy and programmatic action conducive to sustainable and nutrition-sensitive food system for healthy diets and improved nutrition in Europe and Central Asia. 
  • Discussed possibilities for setting a Regional Nutrition Partnership Platform with sub-regional clusters to strengthen the governance and enhance technical and operational capacities in food and nutrition across sectors in the developing countries in the region.

Methodology and symposium’s format

  • Keynote lectures on the symposium’s thematic areas
  • Plenary sessions, parallel sessions and panels of experts by thematic areas and by sectors
  • Compendium of country factsheets with data related to food security and nutrition
  • Collection of good practices on food security and nutrition policy implementation 
  • Posters with documented good practices for experience capitalization in leveraging the potential of food systems for healthy diets and improved nutrition and innovations in food and nutrition
  • Market place with guides, toolkits, methodological support for countries

The Symposium is envisaged as a whole- region event with about 200-250 participants, including representatives from governments/line ministries, experts in nutrition, health, agriculture, social protection, parliamentarians, academics, private sector, non-governmental organizations, cooperatives, civil society.

More information

International Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets and Improved Nutrition

Regional Symposia