Co-production of research for food systems transformation: mapping and exploring examples of co-production activities across Transforming the UK Food System (TUKFS) projects (2024)

About this project

Led by Dr Clare Pettinger (University of Plymouth, FoodSEqual) and Professor Charlotte Hardman (University of Liverpool, FIO FoodBeanMeals), this interdisciplinary, cross-project collaboration has engaged researchers from multiple academic institutions in order to better understand how to facilitate, support, and invest in future co-produced research for food systems transformation. 

There is an urgent need for transformation of the UK food system. The ways in which food is currently produced, accessed, and eaten are having significant negative impacts on human health and causing damage to our environment.

To address these issues, there has been a recent shift towards the use of creative and participatory methods of research, including co-production. In line with this, “co-producing research across disciplines and stakeholders to provide evidence for coherent policymaking” is a key strategic aim of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Transforming UK Food Systems (TUKFS) SPF Programme.  

As part of the TUKFS Annual Synergy Fund, this research project identified and mapped examples of where co-production, co-design or co-creation methods are being employed for food system transformation across six TUKFS projects.

This toolkit shares the outputs of this research project, including 11 case studies of co-production, a ‘messy map’ representing our key findings, as well as practical considerations intended for researchers, academic institutions, and funders engaging with these innovative methodological approaches.

Manifesto for One Health in Europe (2023)

From the Manifesto:

The Coalition of Health Professionals for Regenerative Agriculture is a growing movement of health professionals and a multidisciplinary set of people and organisations connecting the dots between soil health and human health. This manifesto aims to give voice to a European Regenerative Healthcare movement and incentivise actions across the food, agriculture, and healthcare systems. This piece aims to align the voices of different stakeholders to achieve One Health in Europe.

The One Health concept highlights that the health and well-being of humans are inseparably linked to the health of other ecosystem components such as soil, plants, and animals. As health professionals, we recognise our unique role in mitigating the climate, food, and health crisis by promoting One Health.

Regenerative Healthcare is one of the practical solutions of One Health, where soil health connects to human health. The cycle starts with the farmer, who grows nutrient-dense food through agroecological practices. The food is then provided to hospitals and other public institutions as a tool to treat and prevent disease.

This chain demands that health professionals and all the different stakeholders involved have a holistic understanding of agriculture, nutrition, food systems, and also prevention-based measures to tackle human and environmental health crises. Training healthcare providers in regenerative healthcare promote soil, plant, animal, and human health, and it can scale regenerative agriculture and agroecology.

Call for sustainable food systems including (medical) nutrition for hospitalised children and their families (2024)

Verbruggen SCAT, Cochius den Otter S, Bakker J, et al. Call for sustainable food systems including (medical) nutrition for hospitalised children and their families. Frontline Gastroenterology  Published Online First: 20 March 2024. doi: 10.1136/flgastro-2023-102478 (open access)

  • Key messages
    • The climate emergency is a pressing global issue that poses significant threats to human health and the environment.
    • A call to collective action from industry, legislators, and non-governmental organisations to develop standardised processes to reduce the amount of plastic in medical nutrition and associated waste.
    • To develop scalable circular economy for medical nutrition there needs to be standardisation of process and methodology, as a current lack of transparency and large-scale action hinders progress towards effecting change.
    • Research is required around behaviour change models to support the transition from animal-based to plant-based diets, including medical nutrition, for hospital patients, visitors, and staff.
    • Collective action is required for all of us, although small acts can save our planet – we need large scale action.
    • How can you get involved in advocating for your hospital to reduce the amount of medical nutrition waste?
  • Abstract
    • The climate emergency presents a profound threat to global health, adversely affecting the health and well-being of children who are projected to bear a substantial disease burden, as well as impacting children’s right to food, water, healthcare and education. The healthcare sector strives to prioritise preventative healthcare policies improving the health of individuals across the life course. However, current healthcare practices significantly contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and waste generation, in which (medical) nutrition plays an important role.
    • Plant-based proteins offer sustainability benefits, and potential health advantages, and have a lower climate footprint, although there may also be unintended consequences of land-use change and deforestation for certain crops. However, to develop suitable plant-based alternatives to medical nutrition, it will be necessary to address regulatory obstacles as well as ensure nutritional profiles are suitable, particularly protein (amino acid) and micronutrient composition. Additionally, the development of heat-tolerant and water-efficient plant genotypes could bolster adaptation to changing climatic conditions.
    • Effective waste management, including wasted food and medical nutrition, emerges as a key strategy in mitigating the climate impact of medical nutrition. While research on food waste in healthcare settings is limited, minimising waste spillage in medical nutrition is a crucial area to explore. Healthcare professionals must acknowledge their roles in curbing the climate footprint of medical nutrition as well as recommendations for food-based approaches.
    • This review aims to investigate the sustainability of medical nutrition for paediatric care, focusing on factors contributing to GHG emissions, plant-based alternatives, waste management and plastic packaging. Such an exploration is vital for healthcare professionals to fulfil their responsibilities in addressing the climate crisis while advocating for change.
https://doi.org/10.1136/flgastro-2023-102478

Recipe for a Livable Planet: Achieving Net Zero Emissions in the Agrifood System (2024)

Sutton, William R.; Lotsch, Alexander; Prasann, Ashesh. 2024. Recipe for a Livable Planet: Achieving Net Zero Emissions in the Agrifood System. © Washington, DC: World Bank. http://hdl.handle.net/10986/41468  License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.

Abstract

The global agrifood system has been largely overlooked in the fight against climate change. Yet, greenhouse gas emissions from the agrifood system are so big that they alone could cause the world to miss the goal of keeping global average temperatures from rising above 1.5 centigrade compared to preindustrial levels. Greenhouse gas emissions from agrifood must be cut to net zero by 2050 to achieve this goal.

Recipe for a Livable Planet: Achieving Net Zero Emissions in the Agrifood System offers the first comprehensive global strategic framework to mitigate the agrifood system’s contributions to climate change, detailing affordable and readily available measures that can cut nearly a third of the world’s planet heating emissions while ensuring global food security.

These actions, which are urgently needed, offer three additional benefits: improving food supply reliability, strengthening the global food system’s resilience to climate change, and safeguarding vulnerable populations.

This practical guide outlines global actions and specific steps that countries at all income levels can take starting now, focusing on six key areas: investments, incentives, information, innovation, institutions, and inclusion.

Calling for collaboration among governments, businesses, citizens, and international organizations, it maps a pathway to making agrifood a significant contributor to addressing climate change and healing the planet.

Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming (website)

Sustain is a powerful alliance of organisations and communities working together for a better system of food, farming and fishing, and cultivating the movement for change. Together, they advocate food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture, and promote equity.

The Sustain alliance works to influence government, local authorities, businesses, organisations and decision-makers in a position to influence or achieve change. We advocate for transparency, legal responsibilities, good governance and accountability. We work with sister alliances and organisations in the UK Nations and support experts and groups working on specialist issues where we can lend our weight. We also work with leaders, food partnerships and communities in places across the UK – and internationally – to improve health and sustainability through the mobilisation and celebration of local action on food.

The main sister alliances that Sustain works with include:

  • Eating Better, is a movement for change of sixty organisations working to accelerate the transition from producing and eating too much meat and dairy to a fairer, healthier and more sustainable food system that is better for animal welfare and for nature.
  • Food Sense Wales is built on the foundations of Food Cardiff, a multi-award-winning food partnership and founding member of the Sustainable Food Places Network managed in partnership with the Soil Association, Food Matters and Sustain. Food Sense Wales delivers pioneering programmes such as Sustainable Food Places, Peas Please, and Food Power – bringing people together through food.
  • Green Alliance is an independent think tank and charity focused on ambitious leadership for the environment. It works with influential leaders in business, NGOs and politics to accelerate political action and create transformative policy for a green and prosperous UK. Sustain has worked extensively with Green Alliance members, and during the Brexit process with the Greener UK coalition hosted by the Green Alliance, to integrate food and farming into key environmental, fisheries and agriculture policy initiatives.
  • Green Care Coalition, was established in 2016 to promote the commissioning and use of Green Care services, and to give voice to the many organisations in the UK that are committed to delivering or supporting the delivery of high-quality and cost-effective Green Care services. Green Care refers to structured therapy or treatment programmes that take place in natural surroundings and recognise the instinctive connection between nature and health.
  • Nourish Scotland works across Scotland for a fair, healthy and sustainable food system that truly values nature and people. Nourish takes a systems approach to food. This means they work across a wide range of issues and levels: from production to consumption, from practice to policy, and from grassroots to national. They champion integrated approaches to solving the big challenges of the current food system: hunger and malnutrition, diet-related disease, exploitation, loss of biodiversity, and climate change.
  • The Obesity Health Alliance is a coalition of over 40 organisations working together to reduce obesity by influencing government policy. The goal of the Obesity Health Alliance is to prevent obesity-related ill-health by supporting evidence-based population-level policies to help address the wider environmental factors that lead to excess body weight.
  • The Sustainable Soils Alliance is a partnership of farming organisations, businesses, NGOs, applied science and academia working together to restore our soils to health within one generation. The alliance pursues this aim by bringing together the community of stakeholders interested in soil management to debate the scale and nature of the problem, agree on the appropriate indicators and determining factors and identify the relevant policy mechanisms and levers for reform. They engage media and stakeholders, educate the general public and lobby government for a policy framework that will bring about the transformational step change needed to support the development of healthy soil for generations to come.
  • The Trade Justice Movement is a UK coalition of nearly sixty civil society organisations, with millions of individual members, calling for trade rules that work for people and the planet. Trade Justice Movement members include trade unions, aid agencies, environment and human rights campaigns, Fair Trade organisations and consumer groups. 
  • Wildlife and Countryside Link is the largest environment and wildlife coalition in England, bringing together 57 organisations to use their strong joint voice for the protection of nature. Link’s members campaign to conserve, enhance and access our landscapes, animals, plants, habitats, rivers and seas.

Food as Medicine Global

Vision – A collaborative global community of farmers, health care providers, healers, hospitals, clinics, educators, schools, academic centers, students, cooks and consumers united in a vision for a healthy world.

Mission – To facilitate educational conversations and collaborative engagement for unifying agriculture and medicine to promote health and healing for all. Food as Medicine Global (FAMG) is about community. We facilitate conversations leading to increased collaborations and individual actions to promote health and healing for all. We host events for continued cooperative engagement, brainstorming, and learning from each other to advance the Food as Medicine movement.

Why? Many of our current world challenges have a common root: the way food is grown and consumed. Farming practices impact the health of people, animals, and the environment. Healthier soil leads to healthier food, healthier people, a healthier ecosystem, and healthier climate. There is already a great deal of work happening globally in these areas; however, much of it is in isolation. Our intent is to gather information, build bridges, advance conversations, strengthen engagement, highlight success stories, and amplify efforts to energize a global movement. 

The Economics of the Food System Transformation (2024)

On 29 January 2024, leading experts from the Food System Economics Commission (FSEC) unveiled a new economic model that maps the impacts of two possible futures for the global food system. The report is extremely useful for Dietitians and Nutritionists, with diet central to improving our food system.

The text emphasizes the urgent need for a transformation of food systems, highlighting the economic, environmental, and social benefits of such a transformation. It outlines the negative impacts of current food systems on health, the environment, and climate change, identifying unaccounted costs estimated at 15 trillion USD a year. The report also discusses the unsustainable trajectory of the global food system and the potential economic benefits of a transformation, estimating them to be worth 5 to 10 trillion USD a year.

Proposed Solutions for Food System Transformation:

  1. Shifting consumption patterns towards healthy diets: The report suggests regulating the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, providing front-of-pack nutritional guidance, targeting public food procurement on healthy options, taxing sugar-sweetened beverages and unhealthy foods, and reformulating packaged food to encourage healthier dietary choices.
  2. Resetting incentives by repurposing government support for agriculture: It is recommended to repurpose subsidies to improve access to healthy diets and make them more affordable. This involves reforming agricultural support to incentivize choices in line with the goals of the food system transformation, with a focus on lowering the hidden costs of food systems.
  3. Targeting revenue from new taxes to support food system transformation: The report recommends taxing carbon and nitrogen pollution to help achieve positive outcomes and align with expert recommendations from bodies such as the IPCC and OECD. Designing new taxes to suit the local context and targeting resulting revenues towards direct and progressive benefits for poorer households is essential to ensure inclusive outcomes and garner political support for a food system transformation.
  4. Innovating to increase labor productivity and workers’ livelihood opportunities: Public institutions can accelerate the development and diffusion of innovations that meet the needs of poorer producers and remove barriers to their adoption. Priority areas for public research and innovation include improving plant breeding, supporting environmentally sustainable, biodiversity-friendly, and low-emission farming systems, and developing digital technologies useful to small farmers.
  5. Scaling-up safety nets to keep food affordable for the poorest: Developing and strengthening safety nets is crucial to making food system transformations inclusive and politically feasible. Countries should prioritize targeting limited transfer resources on children’s nutritional needs and mobilizing more resources to put in place comprehensive safety nets.

Additionally, the report addresses various tensions and obstacles in transforming food systems, highlighting the need to manage concerns such as fears of food price rises, job losses, policy siloes, global inequalities, and entrenched vested interests. It emphasizes the importance of addressing these concerns to facilitate change and ensure that the benefits of food system transformation can be realized. The report also highlights the rising visibility of transforming food systems as a policy priority, as well as the new ambition to seize the opportunities offered by such transformation, as evidenced by the COP28 UAE declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action signed by over 150 countries.

Source: Food Systems Economics. (2024). The Economics of the Food System Transformation. Knowledge for policy.
https://knowledge4policy.ec.europa.eu/publication/economics-food-system-transformation_en

Food environment framework in low- and middle-income countries – An integrative review (2023 Dec)

Neha Gupta, Vaishali Deshmukh, Sonika Verma, Seema Puri, Nikhil Tandon, Narendra K. Arora. Food environment framework in low- and middle-income countries – An integrative review. Global Food Security. Volume 39. 2023. 100716. ISSN 2211-9124. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2023.100716. (pay wall)

Relevant to: 

Researchers from multidisciplinary domains, policy makers, program managers

Question: 

The integrative review addressed the following objectives: (1) to develop a multi-level framework of Food Environments (FE) for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) based on McLeroy socio ecological theory and Penchansky and Thomas’s theory of access; (2) to identify the factors operating at different levels of the FE framework; and (3) to understand the relationship between factors operating at different levels of FE framework and dietary behaviors in LMICs.

Bottom line for nutrition practice: 

  • Food environment embedded in the food systems is a key consideration in sustainability. This study finds that the food environments in LMICs are in a dynamic state and have context specific mix of traditional systems and emerging modern supply chain-based markets.
  • The proposed socio-ecological model of the food environment in the context of LMICs should lay the foundation for an operational and analytical tool for surveillance, capturing dynamicity and its determinants.

Abstract: 

  • There are major gaps in our understanding of food environments (FE) in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) witnessing differential and complex social and economic transition. The present integrative review was conducted to develop a conceptual framework of FE for LMICs using socio-ecological and access theory. The FE framework has four layers: public policy, community/neighborhood (including organizational e.g., markets, schools), household, and individual. Availability, accessibility, and affordability with built-in socio-cultural and contextual factors were the major domains in every layer. The following additional domains emerged: global influences, marketing and regulation, nutrition programs, time-constrained family members, and food behavior. Wet and informal markets are important components of FE. The next step is determining the model’s resilience to accommodate and capture nuances across LMICs.

Details of results: 

  • The integrative review included evidence from 28 studies about food environment in low and middle-income countries in the last two decades.
  • The review used McLeroy’s socio-ecological model and Penchansky’s access theory as the basis for identifying the socio-economic and ecological factors operating at multiple levels in the LMIC food environment that influence dietary outcomes.
  • The factors were operating at (i) policy, (ii) community, (iii) household, and (iv) individual levels under the availability, affordability, and accessibility domains at each level are interwoven among themselves
  • The review identified that context and neighborhood characteristics characterise the food environment. In addition, the unorganized markets comprise of the major component of food environment
  • The evidence synthesis identified the following additional domains at multiple levels: Nutrition programs and global influences (Policy level); marketing and regulations (policy and neighborhood level); and time constraint and food behavior (household level).

Of additional interest: 

n/a

Conflict of interest/ Funding:  

The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

External relevant links:  

n/a

Corresponding author: 

Seema Puri, Department of Food and Nutrition, Institute of Home Economics, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India, dr.seemapuri@gmail.com

Environmental imprints of agricultural and livestock produce: a scoping review from South Asian countries (2023 Dec)

Sachdeva B, Puri S, Aeri BT. Environmental imprints of agricultural and livestock produce: a scoping review from South Asian countries. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2023: 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1111/jhn.1323 (pay wall)

Relevant to: 

Medical professionals, nutrition experts, chefs, foodservice procurement

Question: 

The present study explored the role of South Asian food crops and livestock in environmental degradation.

Bottom line for nutrition practice: 

  • A prerequisite for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is the sustainable food production. Many foods that are healthy for people are healthy for the environment, too. Trained medical professionals and nutrition experts encourage healthy eating. According to the research, nutrition experts in South Asian nations do possess enough understanding about sustainable food systems. Thus, in addition to nutrition education, they can spread the knowledge about food sustainability as well.
  • At the public level, concept of food sustainability can be promoted by chefs or nutritionists who oversee large food establishments and serve maximum population. Providing plant-based, seasonal, varied, and traditional menus, along with reduced portion sizes, could be easy yet effective ways to encourage sustainable diets and decrease food waste.

Abstract: 

  • Background: Global agricultural activities in 2020 produced 5.5 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent, and this amount is projected to increase since 70% more food would need to be produced in 2050 to feed the world’s population. Food security in South Asian countries is expected to rise due to increased agricultural output, yet it is unclear how their livestock and food crops will affect the environment. The purpose of this review was to evaluate the environmental effects of agricultural activities (pre and post-production) associated with edible food crops and livestock products consumed in eight South Asian nations.
  • Methods: Three databases—PubMed, Google Scholar, and Science Direct—were used to find the studies between 2011 and 2022. There was no registered protocol for this scoping review.
  • Results: The criteria for inclusion were met by twenty-seven studies. Most of the research was done in India. The assessment of greenhouse gas emissions was reported in twenty-four papers followed by water footprints (n = 5), emissions of nitrogen and phosphorus (n = 4), and land requirements (n = 4).A major source of greenhouse gas emissions has been found to be the cultivation of wheat and rice. It has been reported that the production of livestock (meat, dairy, prawns, and bovine) in Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka has also a negative impact on the environmental. For other environment variables, inconclusive data were obtained.
  • Conclusions: Growing more coarse cereals (millets) and diversifying the food production are the requisite steps to reduce the GHG emissions. However, to corroborate the current analysis, further long-term studies for South Asian nations are necessary.

Details of results: 

  • A total of twenty-seven screened studies met the scoping review’s eligibility and were included in the final analysis. Selected research articles discussed the impact of livestock and/or food production on various environmental parameters.
  • With the help of this review, information about various environmental effects of pre- and post-production activities pertaining to food crops and livestock products in South Asian nations was gathered. In accordance with the World Bank’s classification, eight South Asian nations—India, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan—were taken into consideration.
  • It was observed that greenhouse gas emissions were the most often researched environmental impact worldwide. Retrieved data on land requirements, water footprints, and nitrogen.
  • Understanding a nation’s food production and consumption pattern is essential to ensure food sustainability. Research indicates that due to globalisation there has been a nutrition transition in South Asian countries.
  • Refined products, high fat, high sugar and animal-based food which are consumed more frequently are considered harmful for the environment. Diversifying one’s diet is recommended at the individual level in all six countries. This includes consuming a range of grains and substituting millets (bajra, ragi, and sorghum) for rice/wheat and plant based milk (almond milk for dairy or animal products.

Of additional interest: 

Conflict of interest/ Funding:  

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

Corresponding author: 

Seema Puri, Department of Food and Nutrition, Institute of Home Economics, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India, dr.seemapuri@gmail.com

Sustainability Practices in School Feeding Programs (2023 Sep)

This paper provides an overview of research on environmental considerations in school feeding programmes and a synopsis of evaluations of two school feeding programs (U.S. National School Lunch Program and Portugal) with emphasis on their environmental impacts.

The paper concludes that estimates of the environmental impacts of school feeding programs are needed to design menus and make policy recommendations, which, in turn, can reduce their environmental impacts and help students develop food preferences aligned with sustainable dietary patterns. Studies can be performed to better inform implementation of different components of new standards.

The following were strategies found to assist:
💰 Financial incentives, including local food procurement, could encourage school districts to offer beef less frequently, and provide plant-based meals on school menus.
📝 School-based curriculum that emphasizes food literacy (e.g., cooking, gardening) and marketing campaigns could ensure that menu changes are well-received by students.
🫛 Sourcing plant-based school meals seasonally and locally that use eco-friendly production practices such as organic food production and agroecology can provide environmental, economic, and social
sustainability benefits.
🧑‍🍳 Finally, introducing plant-based school meals gradually, giving careful consideration of the seasoning, naming, and aesthetics of plant-based meals, and training kitchen staff in the preparation of plant-based meals are all strategies that can be used to overcome potential implementation barriers.

This article appeared in a member-only newsletter of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetics Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is shared with permission. The author, Christine McCullum-Gomez, PhD, RDN, is a food and nutrition consultant based in Bogotá, Colombia. She has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences from Cornell University with minors in Program Evaluation and Public Policy. Her research and work experience lie in food security and sustainable food systems. Dr. McCullum-Gomez is a Column Editor and serves on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. She is also Chair-Elect of the Global Member Interest Group (GMIG) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.