About Sustainable Food Systems

What are Sustainable Food Systems?

Commonly, we think of achieving sustainability as balancing the environment, society, and economy in decision making, in such a way that future generations are able to meet their needs. There are many different ways to define sustainable food systems and diets. Please visit the glossary for a few examples. Dietitians-Nutritionists around the world envision sustainable food systems as ones that nourish all people, now and into the future, with sufficient, nutritious, affordable, tasty, diverse, and culturally appropriate food. Such food systems support people’s physical and mental health while respecting the integrity of ecological and social systems

Sustainable food systems can and will take many forms around the world, with no one diet or way of producing food being the only sustainable choice. Rather, sustainable food systems can be defined by their ability to meet the above description without systematically, and increasingly, degrading the social and ecological systems on which they depend. See Learning Module on What are Sustainable Food Systems and Diets for more information.

Dietitians-Nutritionists’ Vision of Sustainable Food Systems

As part of the Food Sustainability Initiative, dietitians and nutritionists came together to define a vision that we can work toward as a profession. The full vision is:

Sustainable food systems nourish all people, now and into the future, with sufficient, nutritious, affordable, tasty, diverse, culturally appropriate food. Such food systems support physical and mental health while preserving, promoting, and respecting the integrity of ecological and social systems.


All people have dignified and appropriate physical and economic access to such food systems; food systems in turn contribute to sustainable livelihoods for food system workers, and contribute to peace and stability.


There exists a culture of respect for food and the people who are involved in food systems (farmers, processors, cooks, etc.). There is also a culture of respect for ecosystem resources and services on which our food systems depend. High levels of food and nutrition literacy means that people have knowledge and skills to feed themselves, and their families, sustainably.


Global sustainable food systems include a diversity of coordinated local, regional and global-scale actors that are responsive to meeting diverse food needs at the community level. In this system, food production and consumption activities are rooted in food cultures, and adaptive to change.


Governance of a sustainable food system includes a diverse set of food system actors (e.g. producers, sellers/retailers, public health professionals, consumers). Such governance allows for distributed power and leadership that values multiple ways of knowing and producing evidence (e.g., indigenous knowledge, scientific evidence, etc.) to inform food systems and sustainability decision making.