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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.

By focusing on food systems - how we produce, collect, store, transport, transform and ensure access to foods - we can promote better diets, and improve our health and use of natural resources. 

FAO works with Members to implement nutrition-sensitive policies, investments and programmes. Mainstreaming nutrition across sectors, FAO works not only with the ministries of agriculture and health, but also with social welfare, education, trade and industry, finance, planning, water and sanitation.

Taking a value-chain approach, FAO partners with governments and stakeholders to strengthen food and agriculture systems to improve nutrition and health. 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

·        Profound changes in our current food-systems and consumption patterns are needed in order to combat nutrition problems that afflict more than 2 billion people, particularly in developing countries. 

·        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.

·        A food system approach to addressing malnutrition requires comprehensive programmes and coherent public policies that address both the supply and demand sides of food, as well as the food environment where consumers engage with a food system to make their food-related decisions. Policies, programmes and investments need to be “nutrition-sensitive”, which means nutrition must be mainstreamed across sectoral policies.

·        Examples of food system policy measures that support healthy diets are: incentives to encourage the production of nutrient-rich foods like fruit and vegetables, investing in transport and cold-chain infrastructure to reduce food loss, food reformulation laws, regulations for retail and food service chains, food labelling policies and legislation to ensure institutional procurement from local smallholder farmers, where relevant. 

·        Examples of food system policy measures that intend to support the promotion of healthy diets are: incentives to encourage fruit and vegetable production, reformulation of processed foods to deliver better nutritional profiles, regulations controlling retail and food service chains, food labelling policies or procurement policies for food served in public places.

·        The Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016-2025) is an unprecedented opportunity for countries and their partners to not only commit to nutrition objectives, but to also act upon these commitments, by intensifying their efforts and scaling up nutrition investments, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of ending malnutrition in all its forms by 2030. 

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