Academia and Research Institutions

Consumers are key for transforming food systems and fostering the Mediterranean Diet

© FAO/Ferenc Isza

FAO, CIHEAM, UfM and PRIMA Webinar

20/02/2023 - 

What active role can consumers play in shaping healthier and more sustainable food systems? And what are the implications for rethinking Mediterranean diets?

This is the key question raised during a technical webinar organized by the SFS-MED Platform on 26 January 2023 to discuss the levers for food systems transformation. The SFS-MED Platform is a multi-stakeholder initiative for Sustainable Food Systems in the Mediterranean, a joint effort of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM), the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (PRIMA).

Webinar participants included representatives from consumer organizations and the private sector, and experts from research centres, international organizations and educational networks.

Discussions revolved around the role of consumers in achieving a more sustainable food system agenda in the Mediterranean, using the Mediterranean diet as a potential lever for transformation. Real-life cases on educating and empowering consumers were demonstrated, which showed the power of using easy-to-understand information, written in everyday language. This approach places consumers at the centre of all elements of the food system, from food research to food production.

“A Mediterranean diet adapted to modern lifestyles and to a new generation of consumers could help shape more sustainable food systems in the Mediterranean. Through education and cooperation among all food systems players, consumers will be in a position to make informed food choices to improve their own health and that of the planet’s,” stated Laura De Matteis, FAO Food Systems Expert.

The enthusiastic exchanges among webinar participants confirmed that:

∞Food choices, dietary habits and preferences are highly influenced by the settings in which consumers make decisions about acquiring, preparing and consuming foods. 

∞Education on healthy and sustainable consumption from an early age plays a central role in promoting a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.

∞Consumer organizations are well placed to protect consumer needs. With the knowledge and expertise to represent and empower consumers in influencing the food industry and markets, consumer organizations play an essential role in decision-making processes.

∞Engagement by stakeholders in different sectors has the potential to amplify and channel consumers’ voices to decision-makers. They can help provide a deeper understanding of consumers’ rights and needs for healthier diets in the Mediterranean.

∞ Meals served in schools, public universities, hospitals, prisons and social programmes have the potential to contribute to healthier and more sustainable food consumption and food production by granting greater access to local, affordable, diverse, safe and nutritious food.

∞There is a need to widen the perception of the Mediterranean diet.  Not only should it be valued for its benefits on human health, but also as a strategic resource for the sustainable development of the entire Mediterranean region, thus benefitting the environment, local economies, and society as a whole.

This webinar is part of the SFS-MED Webinar series, which leverages the knowledge and expertise of a network of researchers, development practitioners and decision-makers. The webinars aim to strengthen knowledge-sharing and stimulate debate around themes relevant to food systems transformation in the Mediterranean, peer exchange on recent research and study findings, and showcase successful and inspiring actions to promote the functional use of different food systems approaches.