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Food systems for better nutrition

Malnutrition in all its forms – undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, and overweight and obesity – imposes unacceptably high economic and social costs on countries at all income levels. Improving nutrition and reducing these costs requires a multisectoral approach that begins with food and agriculture and includes complementary interventions in public health and education. The traditional role of agriculture in producing food and generating income is fundamental, but the entire food system – from inputs and production, through processing, storage, transport and retailing, to consumption – can contribute much more to the eradication of malnutrition.

Agricultural policies and research must continue to support productivity growth for staple foods while paying greater attention to nutrient-dense foods and more sustainable production systems. Traditional and modern supply chains can enhance the availability of a variety of nutritious foods and reduce nutrient waste and losses. Governments, international organizations, the private sector and civil society can help consumers choose healthier diets, reduce waste and contribute to more sustainable use of resources by providing clear, accurate information and ensuring access to diverse and nutritious foods.

About the series

The State of Food and Agriculture,FAO’s major annual flagship publication, aims at bringing to a wider audience balanced science-based assessments of important issues in the field of food and agriculture. Each edition of the report contains a comprehensive, yet easily accessible, overview of a selected topic of major relevance for rural and agricultural development and for global food security.

For more information contact Terri Raney, Economic and Social Development Department

Key messages

  • Malnutrition in all its forms imposes unacceptably high costs on society in human and economic terms. 

  • Addressing malnutrition requires a multisectoral approach that includes complementary interventions in food systems, public health and education.

  • Within a multisectoral approach, food systems offer many opportunities for interventions leading to improved diets and better nutrition.

  • Agricultural production and productivity growth remain essential for better nutrition, but more can be done.

  • Both traditional and modern supply chains offer risks and opportunities for achieving better nutrition and more sustainable food systems.

  • Consumers ultimately determine what they eat and therefore what the food system produces.

  • Better governance of food systems at all levels, facilitated by high-level political support, is needed to build a common vision, to support evidence-based policies, and to promote effective coordination and collaboration through integrated, multisectoral action.

Interview with André Croppenstedt,
FAO Economist