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Food systems in practice

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Food Systems Approach 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:

1) Broadening the analysis

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.

2) Expanding the engagement 

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.

3) Amending or enacting new policies and legislation

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.

4) Strenghtening local governance and coordination

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.

5) Launching campaigns on healthy and sustainable diets

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.

6) Developing National food-based dietary guidelines (FBDGs)

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.

7) Scaling up smart public investments

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.

8) Attracting private investments

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.