Food systems-based dietary guidelines (FSBDGs, 2024)

This document is a brief introduction to the new food systems-based dietary guidelines (FSBDGs) methodology developed by FAO, which not only aims to address health and nutritional priorities but takes a food system approach to promote healthy diets, by considering socio-cultural, economic, and environmental sustainability.

Why is a food systems-based methodology necessary?

Most countries have developed dietary guidelines with a focus on improving consumers’ nutrition and overall health. Such guidelines have been mainly used for nutrition education. Only a few countries have extended their use to inform policies and interventions in other sectors, such as in public procurement and social protection.

To leverage their potential for doing more in other sectors, some countries have included sustainability considerations in new or revised dietary guidelines. However, the methodologies and approaches used by these countries differ significantly from one another and are seldom made public.

The international community has recognized the potential and need for dietary guidelines to catalyze food systems transformation towards sustainability and to influence policies beyond the scope of consumer education. However, at present, there is a lack of global guidance and tools to facilitate this.

To fill in this gap, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has developed the new food systems-based dietary guidelines (FSBDGs) methodology through a collaborative process involving multiple global, regional, and country-level experts.

Next-generation solutions to address adaptive challenges in dietetics practice: the I+PSE conceptual framework for action (2022)

Tagtow A, Herman D, Cunningham-Sabo L. Next-generation solutions to address adaptive challenges in dietetics practice: the I+PSE conceptual framework for action. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2022; 122(1): 15-24.

This article focuses on Applications for Professional Practice. The following is taken from the introduction to the article:

“It describes the Individual plus Policy, System, and Environmental (I+PSE) Conceptual Framework for Action (known as the “Framework”) as a roadmap for RDNs across all areas of practice (eg, research, education, clinical, community, and management) to better address adaptive challenges and to formulate multidimensional strategies for optimal impact. The Framework has cross-cutting practice implications for all areas of dietetics practice and can lead to the next generation of solutions to tackle adaptive challenges that better support nutrition and health.

The I+PSE Conceptual Framework for Action (see Figure) is a blueprint for RDNs and their partners to develop and implement multidimensional strategies using a systems orientation to achieve greater responsiveness to adaptive challenges and realize greater impacts.

  • Phase 1 –
    • Once an adaptive challenge is identified, RDNs can apply a determinants of health lens (Figure, phase 1) to closely examine nutrition and health problems and better identify why problems are worsening despite best efforts to solve them. The result of this focused assessment is a stronger diagnosis of the root causes that supports strategic decision-making in phase 2.
  • Phase 2 –
    • Is the formation of coordinated multidimensional strategies that produce a sustainable and synergistic effect.
  • Phase 3 –
    • Is the evaluation of outcomes and impacts of the suite of strategies and the degree to which change has occurred at the individual, practice, program, organizational, policy, and population levels. Encircling the Framework is systems thinking and reflection to support an iterative cycle of robust assessment, planning, implementation, and impact evaluation. The Framework is versatile and can be adapted to a wide range of nutrition issues, areas of dietetics practice, and diverse partnerships.”

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.

Agriculture, Food and Climate Action Toolkit (2023 Dec)

The Agriculture, Food and Climate Action Toolkit aims to help national policymakers translate global climate and food commitments into local actions directly supports the COP28 Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action. The opportunity for the Declaration’s signatories to translate their commitments into ambitious national-level action lies in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs).

The toolkit is 40-pages and mentions nutrition throughout. Priority actions identified in the Toolkit include shifting to nature-positive food production, reducing and repurposing food loss and waste, and transitioning to nutritious and healthy diets. Only a combination of these actions will bring food-based greenhouse gas emissions within a 1.5 degrees Celsius carbon budget, and ensure that food producers can adapt to changes in what, where and how they can grow and harvest food.

It identifies six priorities for policymakers to incorporate in updated NDCs and NAPs, provides a series of case studies from countries already integrating food systems actions in their national climate plans, and gives an overview of existing resources that can enable the enhancement, replication and scaling of successful practices.

Although most countries have introduced at least one food-based measure in their NDCs and NAPs, many continue to face significant challenges in holistically integrating and implementing food system measures. Most countries focus on food production, with a limited number including actions on food loss and waste, and only a handful considering consumption and diets. By identifying good examples from different parts of the world, the toolkit will support policymakers in introducing additional measures that will deliver the most impact in their own context.

The COP28 Agriculture, Food and Climate Action Toolkit was produced by a taskforce – which included WWF, Global Alliance for the Future of Food, Climate Focus, NDC Partnership, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations, CGIAR and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT – convened by the UAE COP28 Presidency and will be a valuable resource for countries as they transform their food systems to both mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Global Food Systems Network Map

The Global Food Systems Network Map is a powerful online tool designed to visually represent the relationships among stakeholders involved in food systems-related efforts worldwide. 

Given the varied and dynamic nature of global food systems, it is often challenging to track projects and partners. This Network Map, created by Meridian Institute, aims to alleviate these challenges by illustrating the landscape of multi-stakeholder initiatives working across food systems, including what issues these initiatives are working on and how they are driving change.

This Network Map will help organizations working in food systems both identify opportunities for collaboration and gather insights on how to focus efforts and resources for maximum collective impact.

The Network Map is hosted on Kumu, an interactive network visualization tool. Learn more about how to navigate the Map here.

Solving the Great Food Puzzle: Right Innovation, Right Impact, Right Place. (2023)

WWF (2023). Solving the Great Food Puzzle: Right Innovation, Right Impact, Right Place. Loring, P., Loken, B., Meyer, M., Polack, S., Paolini, A., et al. WWF, Gland, Switzerland

Our food systems are at the centre of some of the biggest challenges of our time, which means they must also be at the centre of our quest for solutions.

As we work to solve the Great Food Puzzle, innovations are key to unlocking the potential of food systems as solutions to the nature and climate crises.

On its own, innovation won’t be enough to achieve healthy diets from sustainable food systems for all; still, innovations can accelerate national-level food system transformation by helping to close three critical gaps that can hinder action in countries. These gaps are: (i) the ambition gap; (ii) the transformation gap; and (iii) the implementation gap.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution that can deliver the food systems transformations needed in all countries around the world. The Right Innovation, Right Impact, Right Place framework will help anyone designing or supporting innovations in food systems to build an innovation toolkit to maximize impact and achieve national-level health and environmental goals.

Ultimately and most importantly, who is at the table and who is empowered to take the lead matters. What makes this paper novel is the set of concepts and questions we have assembled and how we bring these to life with examples of a wide range of innovations from around the world, some novel and highly technological, others familiar but applied in creative new ways.

As we all work to solve the Great Food Puzzle, we hope the Right Innovation, Right Impact, Right Place framework presented in this study will help ensure that each action taken will have the most impact in the shortest time possible.

RIGHT INNOVATION
means choosing innovations that amplify the impacts of transformation levers and ideally can be applied to affect one or more levers to accelerate change.

RIGHT IMPACT
means anticipating the kind of change and impact any proposed innovation might have in a particular place.

RIGHT PLACE
means paying close attention to the social and ecological context in which the innovation is to be implemented.

How to Effectively Encourage Sustainable Food Choices: A Mini-Review of Available Evidence (2022 Nov)

This is open-access peer review mini-review from Frontiers (Psychology) by Wokje Abrahamse, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand. He describes the review as the following:

“Food choices are difficult to change. People’s individual motivations (such as taste, cost, and food preferences) can be at odds with the negative environmental outcomes of their food choices (such as deforestation, water pollution, and climate change). How then can people be encouraged to adopt more sustainable food choices?

This rapid review uses a dual-processing framework of decision-making to structure an investigation of the effectiveness of interventions to encourage sustainable food choices (e.g., local and organic food consumption, reducing meat and dairy intake, reducing food waste) via voluntary behavior change. The review includes interventions that rely on fast, automatic decision-making processes (e.g., nudging) and interventions that rely on more deliberate decision-making (e.g., information provision). These interventions have varying degrees of success in terms of encouraging sustainable food choices.

This mini-review outlines some of the ways in which our understanding of sustainable food choices could be enhanced. This includes a call for the inclusion of possible moderators and mediators (past behavior, attitudes, beliefs, values) as part of effect measurements, because these elucidate the mechanisms by which behavior change occurs. In light of the climate change challenge, studies that include long-term effect measurements are essential as these can provide insight on how to foster sustained and durable changes.”

This article was shared with us through our ICDA SFS Toolkit Community of Practice forum titled: Behaviour Change Techniques In Sustainability. Join us on the forum to learn & GROW together!

Nordic food systems for improved health and sustainability: Baseline assessment to inform transformation (2019)

According to the report “Nordic food systems for improved health and sustainability: Baseline assessment to inform transformation (2019)”, there are sufficient data on Nordic food systems to understand the crucial action areas and to begin taking immediate steps towards food systems transformations. A transformation implies a journey into aspects partly unknown and untested. The report highlights the complementarity of scientific assessment and normative dialogue on this journey.

Dietitians and Nutritionists (D-Ns) are key to this! From the report:

Food system actors would benefit from building a common understanding of desired pathways towards transformation, which should be informed by the best available evidence. This can be achieved through sustained, cross-sectoral (e.g. policy, business, research, civil society, producer, consumer) stakeholder dialogues. It is particularly important to include stakeholders who are often marginalized in these types of collaborative decision-making processes.

There will be challenges to initiating these changes, such as adopting a ‘whole food system’ approach; addressing trade-offs among food system goals; and confronting prevailing forces and lock-ins. Yet these challenges should not be an excuse for inaction.

Key messages

  • Food systems should be a critical lever of change in the Nordics to reach global health and environmental sustainability commitments.
  • The gap between current and desired food systems is substantial enough to require transformative change.
  • An integrated food systems approach aligning agricultural, production, trade, manufacturing, retailing and consumption priorities must be taken.
  • There is enough evidence on necessary food system changes to begin action in setting current food systems on a trajectory towards healthy and sustainable development.
  • Sustained, multi-sectoral forums are needed to steer Nordic food system transformation.

Next steps

  • Begin immediate action to transform Nordic food systems
  • Initiate a multi-stakeholder scenario development process to define a common vision for Nordic food systems
  • Develop strategies to handle the trade-offs of change
  • Evaluate Nordic food systems in the global context

Acknowledgement: This page is an extracted from the introduction to the report.

Food system impacts on biodiversity loss (2021)

This Chatham House report was supported by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Compassion in World Farming and describes three actions needed for food system transformation in support of biodiversity, and sets out recommendations to embed food system reform in high level political events. All have a strong role for Dietitians and Nutritionists.

The problems:

  • The global food system is the primary driver of biodiversity loss and will continue to accelerate, unless we change the way we produce food. Our global food system is the primary driver of biodiversity loss, with agriculture alone being the identified threat to 24,000 of the 28,000 (86%) species at risk of extinction. The global rate of species extinction today is higher than the average rate over the past 10 million years. Further destruction of ecosystems and habitats will threaten our ability to sustain human populations.
  • In the last decades our food systems have been following the “cheaper food paradigm”, with a goal of producing more food at lower costs through increasing inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, energy, land and water. This paradigm leads to a vicious circle: the lower cost of food production creates a bigger demand for food that must also be produced at a lower cost through more intensification and further land clearance. The impacts of producing more food at a lower cost are not limited to biodiversity loss. The global food system is a major driver of climate change, accounting for around 30% of total human-produced emissions.

The report calls for an urgent reform of food systems, suggesting three interdependent actions:

Firstly, globaI dietary patterns need to move towards more plant-heavy diets (from all food groups and from sustainable food systems, see point 3!), mainly due to the disproportionate impact of animal agriculture on biodiversity, land use and the environment. Such a shift, coupled with the reduction of global food waste, would reduce demand and the pressure on the environment and land, benefit the health of populations around the world, and help reduce the risk of pandemics.

Dietary change is necessary to enable land to be returned to nature, and to allow widespread adoption of nature-friendly farming without increasing the pressure to convert natural land to agriculture. The more the first action is taken up in the form of dietary change, the more scope there is for the second and third actions.

Secondly, more land needs to be protected and set aside for nature. The greatest gains for biodiversity will occur when we preserve or restore whole ecosystems. Therefore, we need to avoid converting land for agriculture. Human dietary shifts are essential in order to preserve existing native ecosystems and restore those that have been removed or degraded.

Thirdly, we need to farm (and support farming) in a more nature-friendly, biodiversity-supporting way, limiting the use of inputs and replacing monoculture with polyculture farming practices.

These actions are for ALL of us to take a system-wide approach to account for the impacts of food systems, develop guidance for change at the level we are working at, and translate these into targets that we measure and track together.

Guide to a healthy and low-cost diet for families with children (2020)(Spanish)

The ICDA SFS Toolkit Regional Contact for Spain, Júlia Muñoz (@juliamunoz_dn in our COP), collaborated with her colleagues (Dr, RD Elena Carrillo, RD Marta Anguera, and Dr Irene Cussó) in the development of this document to help citizens follow a healthier and more sustainable diet at the minimum cost. This guideline is based on the results of a previous European-lead research  carried out at Blanquerna School of Health Sciences Ramon Llull University  to promote a healthy and economical diet for different types of families. They then worked with the Barcelona City Council to publish two documents:

1) Guide to a healthy and low-cost diet for families with children. The guide can serve municipal professionals and other social agents or entities to support families in situations of social vulnerability in the field of food. The ultimate goal is to have a useful tool that families and entities can use to quickly manage the fundamental right to adequate food with a small budget.

2) A booklet on Healthy and economic food for families with children. This is a practical booklet for all citizens, mainly aimed at families with children and adolescents from 18 months to 18 years old, especially in situations of economic difficulties, which provides them with guidance and recommendations to prepare healthy and economic daily meals. The guide provides a shopping list for different types of families, seasonal menus, and an estimated cost for one person. The sample menus were prepared based on recommendations of the Spanish Society of Community Nutrition and the Public Health Agency of Catalonia.

Júlia explains that the recommendations include practices for food sustainability such as the use of leftovers to create new recipes or select seasonal foods. Given the current situation of increasing food insecurity due to the rise of food prices, and acknowledging that when people suffer from stress they tend to eat convenient and non-healthy foods (which have a high environmental impact apart from impairing health), it is important to identify these types of resources to keep promoting sustainable diets in a practical way.