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Nutrition and Food Systems

Malnutrition affects all countries and one in three people. It takes many forms, from chronic hunger, to micronutrient deficiency, and from child stunting to obesity.

Nutrition starts with what we eat. Protecting and promoting healthy diets should be a central objective of food system and agricultural policies.

Crop production, fisheries, livestock, and forestry provide the diverse, safe and nutritious foods we need. Enhancing their impact on nutrition requires attention at all stages in the value chain: from the promotion of healthy soils and protection of biodiversity; the choice of inputs and what we produce; to how we store, transport, transform and market foods.

FAO calls for changes in policies to incentivize the provision and consumption of healthy diets, including marketing regulations and economic incentives. FAO also facilitates needed high level dialogue between governments and their partners to develop common norms and approaches for sustainable food systems and healthy diets.

Key policy messages

·        Severe nutrition problems that afflict more than 2 billion people, particularly in developing countries, require profound changes in our current food-systems and consumption patterns..

·        Malnutrition costs the world’s economies trillions of dollars due to higher health costs and loss of productivity. Investing in nutrition is thus both a moral imperative and a sound economic investment.

·        Specific measures should be taken to make food system and agricultural policies and investments “nutrition-sensitive”. Mainstreaming and coordinating nutrition across sectoral policies is indispensable, not only with the ministries of agriculture and health, but also with social welfare, education, trade and industry, finance, planning, water and sanitation.

·        Critical policies include social protection, support to sustainable agriculture, massive nutrition education efforts, consumer protection through food and marketing standards, and specific nutrition interventions for under-five children to break the cycle of malnutrition.

·        Commitment to, and financing for, nutrition needs to be increased significantly to meet the Zero Hunger Challenge and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of ending malnutrition in all its forms by 2030.

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