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Food systems and nutrition

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Resilient, sustainable and nutrition-sensitive food systems

Food connects us all. In today’s globalised world, accessible, affordable and desirable food depends on a complex web of interrelated activities and processes, including food production, processing, transport, marketing, consumption and disposal. This is what we call food systems, which affects everyone’s access to good nutrition.

As a champion of the multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder approach to improve nutrition, the SUN Movement is fostering food systems dialogues at country-level and promoting an integrated approach, for much needed nutrition results.

This topic portal aims to bring together key resources on food systems for – and from – all SUN Movement stakeholders, to promote further debate on the food systems approach, apprehend its complexities and differences across SUN countries, and to showcase new ways of working together in the fight against all forms of malnutrition.

There are just as many faces of food systems as there are people on this planet. But there is one thing, one KEY to our common way forward. And that is: collaboration.

Dr. Gunhild A. Stordalen,
EAT Founder & Executive Chair and
SUN Lead Group member

Food systems today

The way food is grown, processed, distributed, marketed, consumed, and wasted has led to increasing threats to human and planetary health over the last decades. Our food systems are also increasingly vulnerable to shocks and disturbances as they depend on a wide array of interdependent variables, including logistical, human and natural resources, as well as the climate and global economy. As the world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic – this fragility is acutely exposed… but so is food systems’ strategic importance for human and planetary health, resilience to shock and global stability.

Now, more than ever, is the moment to invest in nutrition to transform our food systems, recognising that nutrition is both an input and an outcome of human and planetary health; and that food systems, climate and nutrition are all inescapably linked.

Key Facts

• Despite a 300% increase in global food production since the mid-1960s, over 821 million people are hungry.


In parallel, the world is seeing record levels of overweight and obesity among adults (39%), with trends increasing, also in low and middle-income countries.


• Malnutrition in all its forms is now the number one factor contributing to the global burden of disease and reduced life expectancy.


• Food systems contribute up 30% of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including 44% of methane, significantly contributing to climate change.


• Agriculture is also responsible for up to 80% of biodiversity loss and consumes 70% of all freshwater resources available for human use.


• One-third of all food produced in the world is either lost or wasted. If “food waste” was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of climate pollution in the world, just after China and the United States.

Food systems tomorrow

Food systems and nutrition – an infographic adapted from the FAO e-learning course Improving Nutrition through Agriculture and Food Systems

Breaking down silos between agriculture, health, nutrition and environmental sustainability is difficult but vital. Reflecting this increased awareness, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS)  Voluntary Guidelines are expected to counter the existing policy fragmentation between the food, agriculture and health sectors while also addressing livelihood and sustainability challenges. Such initiatives contribute to making food systems nutrition-sensitive, while promoting secure access to safe, diverse and high-quality diets for everyone.

As we look towards the Nutrition for Growth Summit, countries, donors and organisations will be given a chance to reaffirm the crucial importance of promoting and financing nutrition within food systems’ frameworks. This will be an essential steppingstone towards a successful 2021 UN Food Systems Summit: one that is ambitious and draws the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic to build back better and stronger; one that is inclusive, where those who are most impacted by current outcomes, especially women and girls who are the invisible backbone of food systems in so many contexts, have their say and their advice acted on; and one that is breaking down the silos between agriculture, health, nutrition and environmental sustainability, as only by working together, in the true spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals, can we achieve this crucial transition towards a more resilient, healthier and better-nourished world, leaving no one behind.

What can you do? Get Involved!

Now is the time for a shift in approach. SUN countries, with governments in the driver’s seat, can champion a multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral approach that embraces all components of food systems and enhances their capacity to deliver healthy diets to all. This, however, will require stakeholders to re-think their efforts and collaborate more effectively – for people and planet, alike.

SUN Focal Points, with the support of multi-stakeholder platforms, are strategically placed to catalyse systemic and lasting change by implementing key country-level actions to scale up a food systems approach to nutrition. The private sector has an important role to play to respond to the food systems challenges related to COVID-19 and beyond. The SUN Business Network is supporting the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector in this direction through its global and national partners.

We encourage all stakeholders across sectors to engage in food systems dialogues, at country level, including parliamentarians, donors, representatives from civil society, the private sector – from family farmers, small and medium enterprises to multinational corporations, as well as governments’ decision makers, to look at the needs and demands of consumers, including those of women and girls, and reconcile public health and planetary concerns with the interests and needs of private sector actors. The SUN Movement is committed to make the most of such initiatives, as well as key moments such as N4G and the Food Systems Summit, to be a leading force for the transition towards food systems that are sustainable, resilient, and leave no one behind!

Food systems in practice - what can SUN Focal Points do?

FOOD SYSTEMS DIALOGUES. The Food Systems Dialogues (FSDs) are a global series of facilitated round-table discussions that encourage collective action for transforming food systems. In the future, everyone should be able to access nutritious and healthy diets from food produced in a sustainable manner. FSDs bring together diverse actors in food systems (with expertise in farming, public health, food and beverage, catering, marketing, humanitarian action) from government, civil society, business and academia, to share perspectives, examine opportunities and understand trade-offs for change.


More on Food Systems Dialogues

Want to learn more?

SUN resources


• “Why now is the moment to invest in nutrition to transform our food systems” – IFPRI

• “Leaving logos and egos behind” – Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition

More resources on food systems & sustainable healthy diets
More resources on food systems, the planet and biodiversity
More resources on equitable, efficient and resilient food systems