Global Food and Nutrition Crisis

Ensuring sustainable food systems

Resilient, sustainable and nutrition-sensitive food systems

Food connects us all. In today’s globalized 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 affect everyone’s access to good nutrition.

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

Below, we have brought 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.

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 faces health, conflict, climate, economic and food/nutrition security crises – 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.

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

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.

At the Nutrition for Growth Summit (Tokyo, 2021), countries, donors and organizations reaffirmed the crucial importance of promoting and financing nutrition within food systems’ frameworks. This served as an essential steppingstone towards a successful 2021 UN Food Systems Summit that resulted in a high number of commitments that will serve to create a more resilient, healthier and better-nourished world, leaving no one behind.

These commitments are now being tracked through the Nutrition Accountability Framework.  

Get involved

Now is the time for a shift in approach. SUN countries, with governments in the driver’s seat, can champion a multistakeholder and multisectoral 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 Government Focal Points, with the support of multistakeholder 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 size business sector in this direction through its global and national partners.

The SUN Movement encourages all stakeholders across sectors to engage in food systems dialogues, at the 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, and to be a leading force for the transition towards food systems that are sustainable, resilient, and leave no one behind.


Food systems in practice

Here are some suggestions of a few concrete actions that SUN Focal Points or other SUN stakeholders can take to adopt, or reinforce, a food systems approach at country level:

SUN Focal Points can encourage partners to broaden the analysis of nutrition and food security by looking at evolution in food consumption patterns and preferences, constraints in accessing food, the availability of food, food quality and the origin of food, as well as the environmental implications of the food system. To this end, examining and acting on how gender roles and dynamics in food systems condition women’s and men’s access to produce and consume healthy food, their nutritional status and economic and social empowerment will be essential.

SUN Focal points can mobilize partnerships and resources to raise awareness among public and private stakeholders working in food systems on the importance of nutrition and how food systems can contribute to healthy and sustainable diets. SUN Focal Points must encourage partners to step up efforts to align health and agriculture-related policies and investments and expand these efforts to partnerships with commerce, trade and industry, food standards authorities, and last but not least, environment-related authorities. It is critical to engage more pro-actively and substantially with the private sector, including smallholder farmers, producer cooperatives, small and medium enterprises and multinational companies, and actors driving innovation on circular food production and consumption.

Strengthening national SUN business networks and reaching out to business and consumer associations is key to support such efforts. SUN Focal Points can ensure all partners involved in formulating national nutrition plans work together to adopt a food systems approach in the design and implementation of these plans.

SUN Focal Points can invite SUN stakeholders to broaden their focus in nutrition policy and legislative work (currently often centred on fortification and breastfeeding) to other policies that affect the availability, diversity, affordability and desirability of foods, for example: food safety and quality; regulation of food marketing; food loss and waste; food trade; agricultural and natural resource management policies; social protection and food subsidies.

SUN Focal Points can mobilize support to strengthen the capacity of local authorities, to effectively coordinate and monitor the implementation of national policies and laws, also by building synergies between projects and initiatives in a context-appropriate way. Raising awareness of national policies at grassroots level can help promote innovation in a local context.

The food industry strives to respond to consumer demand, while investing massively in marketing to shape this demand. SUN Focal Points can promote investments in well-designed public awareness-raising campaigns and adequate marketing and labelling regulations, to ensure consumers are empowered to make healthy and environmentally friendly food choices.

SUN Focal Points can lead and/or support the development, strengthening, and use of FBDGs to shape national food systems and nutrition outcomes. FBDGs can be used to inform nutrition public awareness-raising campaigns, food regulations, as well as set standards for school meals, food assistance programmes and other public food procurement programmes, creating incentives for the food industry to supply more nutritious foods and guide investments in agriculture. SUN Partners, including United Nations Agencies, have developed guiding principles on Sustainable Healthy Diets that can serve as a useful inspiration to develop nationally and culturally adapted FBDGs taking into account an integrated approach on nutrition.

SUN Focal Points can work with partners to enhance government leadership in making agricultural investments and value chains nutrition-sensitive and strengthening synergies between food and agriculture investments and nutrition policies and programmes. Closing the gender gap in agriculture by improving rural women’s access to land, assets, resources, technologies, services and opportunities, and the promotion of gender-sensitive policy frameworks need to be at the core of government actions.

SUN Focal points can encourage large private investors (food industry, private foundations, pension funds, etc.) and venture capitalists to make investments at country level in initiatives and enterprises that bring healthy foods to local markets, while preserving the environment and generating employment opportunities. SUN Focal Points can catalyse the organization of investor forums and business accelerators, including through the creation or strengthening of SUN Business Networks, to attract more investments in countries and encourage development of nutrition-sensitive business models.

Key resources

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