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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

Re: Towards a common understanding of Sustainable Food Systems

Siobhan  Kelly

Congratulations to the lead authors on a very difficult task of consolidating the copious amount of literature on the seamless topic of food systems.   I think the glossary is moving in the right direction and with some more depth in some of the areas raised in the online debate, it will be a very useful reference resource for those starting to navigate the elements that need to be considered for a sustainable food system. The below may help with this.

- Overall the thrust and level of the document is conceptual, reflecting however the design and content of the approaches that are synthesized. If possible it would be good to extract from the approaches reviewed any of those that refer to actual country experiences. This would help the reader contextualize the knowledge shared in the glossary.  

- It may be more useful to introduce earlier the notions of multi-stakeholder engagement and PPPs given that Section 3.3 emphasizes these approaches as the main strategies for promoting sustainable food systems.  

- It may be useful to the reader to have Table 1 closer to the intro and then weave the text around a description and comparison of these approaches.

- Section 1.1 on the Rationale explores the nutrition dimension of FS in para 3, but maybe one or two words could be included in the opening first paragraph.  The para as it stands describes what is unsustainable about current food systems, and as such nutrition should be touched upon.   

- The last line of the third paragraph could also be easily expanded to include a reference on the estimated cost to the public sector of unhealthy diets and non-communicable diseases.

-  Paragraph 4 refers to the need to address ‘all’ elements of a food systems.  This is debateable and therefore this paragraph and discussion point could be edited or refined.  While a holistic vision of the landscape is needed, countries are at different stages of development, with different priorities depending on the contexts and agricultural and environmental comparative advantages.  The messaging again needs to be refined as it is unrealistic to expect a country to try to tackle ‘all elements’ simultaneously, with priorities and staging required for the process.   

- Paragraph 5 states that “..governments remain in the driving seat”.  This is also debateable.  It could be argued that structural adjustment placed multinational food companies in the driving seat and due to weak cross-national governance mechanisms, this has led to the challenges we face today. On the other hand, in many developing countries, in particular Africa, the public sector holds the reins, with very little private sector input and consultation, which is stifling growth and innovation in the food system. The lack of dialogue is also preventing the identification of solutions which place sustainability at the centre of economic growth.

-  Page 9, paragraph four defines sustainability.  It may be opportune to introduce the idea of nutrition as the fourth pillar of sustainability.   IFAD’s publication with ESN Nutrition sensitive value chains could be helpful here:  Also the attached paper from the Climate Change Research Network on What is a Sustainable Diet also discusses this idea

- Using the document to explore and expand more on the analysis across the approaches, gaps and ways forward.