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

Including aspects of sustainability in the degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics: An evaluation based on student perceptions (2020)

Education is progressing towards having a more sustainable outlook. Numerous approaches to sustainability teaching have been conducted at different educational stages, but few studies have used quantitative methods to measure its impact.

The aim of this quasi-experimental intervention was to integrate competences in “Sustainable Development” (SustD) into the teaching syllabus of a degree at University of the Basque Country (Spain), in Human Nutrition and Dietetics through active methodologies. Seven courses were selected to implement ten activities, across four academic levels of this degree. Students completed a questionnaire both before and after the intervention in order to measure their perception of knowledge of SustD and to assess their sustainable intentional behaviour (SIB).

According to the results, their SustD related knowledge increased after the intervention, although this was not clearly reflected in their SIB. This study aims to identify good practices and the best conditions for future longitudinal interventions.

Pay Wall to access: Virginia Navarro, Olaia Martínez, Jonatan Miranda, Diego Rada, María Ángeles Bustamante, Iñaki Etaio, Arrate Lasa, Edurne Simón, Itziar Churruca. Including aspects of sustainability in the degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics: An evaluation based on student perceptions, Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 243, 2020, 118545, ISSN 0959-6526, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.118545.

JHND Special Issue: Sustainable Food Systems and Dietary Patterns in Nutrition and Dietetic Practice (2023 Dec)

The British Dietetic Association’s Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics (JHND) published a Special Issue on Sustainable Food Systems and Dietary Patterns in Nutrition and Dietetic Practice edited by: Liesel Carlsson, Angela Madden, and Kalliopi-Anna Poulia (Volume 36, Issue 6, Pages: 2121-2350, December 2023).

Twelve of the sixteen articles are open access and cover a wide range of practice settings.

  • Open Access – Conceptualising sustainability in Canadian dietetic practice: A scoping review – Dietitians are well-positioned to promote sustainable food systems and diets. This research identifies practice activities described in the Canadian published literature and compares these with dietetic competency standards. Increasing practitioners’ ability to analyse issues using systems thinking will help address complex challenges. Updates to competency standards and curricular supports are needed to support this area of practice.
  • Open Access – Local food procurement by hospitals: a scoping review – There is a paucity of peer-reviewed studies describing local food procurement by hospitals. Details of local food procurement models were generally lacking: categorisable as either purchases made ‘on-contract’ via conventional means or ‘off-contract’. If hospital foodservices are to increase their local food procurement, they require access to a suitable, reliable and traceable supply, that acknowledges their complexity and budgetary constraints.

Sustainability and Food Insights Survey (USA, 2023)

Food + Planet‘s 2023 Sustainability and Food Insights Survey included 1,161 Registered Dietitians (RDs) across the USA and found the vast majority of RDs believe their profession should be involved in advocating for sustainable food systems, yet most do not feel confident in providing guidance, primarily due to lack of education and resources. The survey uncovered that sociocultural and planetary health aspects of sustainability ranked as top areas of opportunity for dietitians to deepen their knowledge.

Key Findings of the 2023 Sustainability and Food Insights Survey:

  • Over nine in 10 dietitians feel they should be involved in advocating for sustainability, yet close to half do not consistently incorporate sustainability into their work.
  • Nearly all dietitians report they have barriers for advancing sustainable food systems in their practice. The largest barriers cited were lack of access and affordability, followed by lack of knowledge, tools, and resources.
  • More than 2 out of 3 dietitians say they do not feel confident or feel neutral about providing sustainability guidance. Among areas of sustainability, RDs reported the least knowledge on agriculture practices and environmental impacts of foods; ethical labor, sourcing, and climate justice; soil health and biodiversity; and culturally inclusive guidance.
  • Most dietitians believe sustainability should be part of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • There is disparity among RDs’ beliefs on sustainable diet practices compared to evidence-based global food based dietary guidelines that incorporate sustainability.

Conclusions:

  • There is a major gap in sustainability education and knowledge in the field of nutrition.
  • Professional sustainability education is currently limited in quality and scope.
  • Opportunities for formal training need to be expanded.
  • Access and affordability are significant barriers for RDs to advance sustainability within their practice.
  • Views of sustainability priorities differ from that of global emerging consensus areas.
  • There is an urgent need to advocate for formal integration of SFS into the Dietary Guidelines.

This survey was conducted by Food + Planet in collaboration with Today’s Dietitian and Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. The survey may be used in print or online publications with attribution to Food + Planet, with the exception that it may not be used for commercial purposes without permission from Food + Planet.

Food + Planet was founded in 2020 by four registered dietitians: Sherene Chou, Kate Geagan, Sharon Palmer, and Chris Vogliano with an aim to empower healthcare professionals to be leaders in sustainable food systems.

Contact for Food + Planet:
Kate Geagan MS, RDN
(+1) 435-659-9386
Kate@FoodAndPlanet.org
www.FoodAndPlanet.org

Relevant resources in the ICDA SFS Toolkit:

Food Systems (One Earth Journal by Cell Press)

Access to food is a universal need and a fundamental right, yet current patterns of production and consumption are failing to address issues of food security while simultaneously deteriorating planetary health. In recognition of the urgent need to transform the way we consume, produce, and think about food, this collection of opinion pieces, authoritative reviews, original research articles, and artwork outlines the complexity of the challenge as well as potential solutions towards sustainable food systems for all. You can use the search feature to filter for Open Access Articles.

One Earth is Cell Press’ flagship sustainability journal. One Earth provides a home for high-quality research and perspectives that significantly advance our ability to better understand and address today’s sustainability challenges. We publish monthly thematic issues that aspire to break down barriers between the natural, social and applied sciences and the humanities, stimulate the cross-pollination of ideas, and encourage transformative research. They particularly encourage submissions with cross-disciplinary interest. Studies can be conducted at all spatial, temporal, and socio-political scales, but all submissions must offer a significant conceptual advance.

Optimizing sustainable, affordable, and healthy diets and estimating the impact of plant-based substitutes to milk and meat: A case study in Spain (2023 Sep)

Muñoz-Martínez, J., Abejón Elías R., Batlle-Bayer, L., Cussó-Parcerisas, I., Carrillo-Álvarez, E. (2023) Optimizing sustainable, affordable and healthy diets and estimating the impact of plant-based substitutes to milk and meat: A case study in Spain. Journal of Cleaner Production. Volume 424. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2023.138775. (paid access)

Relevant to: 

Dietitians and public health nutritionists, Health care professionals, Policy makers

Question: 

How is an environmentally sustainable, affordable, culturally acceptable, and nutritious diet determined in Spain? What is the sustainability of current Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDG)? How much can we rely on plant-based milk and plant-based meat from a sustainability perspective ?

Bottom line for nutrition practice: 

  • It is paramount to evaluate the sustainability of diets from a holistic and context-based perspective. Our analysis revealed that although the Spanish FBDG have lower Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHGe) than current diets, they are more blue-water demanding and also more expensive due to the high content in plant-based foods.
  • We were able to determine a nutritious diet with the lowest environmental impact and lowest cost, but results revealed the need to apply actions at systems level to enable more environmentally respectful production practices, and make healthy foods more affordable.
  • Processed plant-based meat alternatives are not required to achieve a sustainable and healthy diet.

Abstract: 

  • The global food system is failing to appropriately nourish the population and has been identified as a driving force for environmental degradation. Changing current diets to healthier and more sustainable ones is key to decrease the incidence of non-communicable diseases and force changes at the production stage that will release environmental pressure. The determination of such diets is a challenge since it should be context specific, culturally acceptable, affordable, nutritionally adequate, and environmentally friendly.
  • Through multiobjective optimization we aimed to determine a sustainable and healthy diet (SHD) in Spain with the minimum cost and environmental impact (assessed through GHGe, land use and blue-water use) that deviate the least from current consumption. Additionally, this research also compares the optimised diet with the Spanish food-based dietary guidelines (FBDG), and explores the potential benefits of reducing animal meat and milk while replacing them with plant-based alternatives. Compared to current consumption, a SHD in Spain can be more nutritious and reduce cost, GHGe, land and blue-water use by 32%, 46%, 27%, and 41%, respectively.
  • The Spanish intake displayed the worst nutritional assessment and the highest values for GHGe and land use. The Spanish FBDG showed the highest cost and blue-water usage. Further analysis revealed that plant-based meat alternatives are not necessary to achieve a nutritionally adequate diet at the minimum cost and environmental impact. Shifting to fortified plant-based milk alternatives may add additional environmental benefits.
  • This work emphasizes the potentiality of using optimization to determine a SHD and identifies important gaps to be fulfilled in future research.

Details of results: 

  • Compared to the Spanish intake, a nutritionally adequate sustainable and healthy diet can be 1.61 € cheaper, reduce GHGe by 2.33 kgCO2eq, land use by 1.5 m2, and blue water use by 156 L. 
  • The Spanish FBDG basket was the most expensive and blue water demanding, mainly explained by the high content of fruits and vegetables. 
  • The Spanish intake showed the lowest nutritional index and the highest GHG and land footprint due to the high content of animal protein.

Of additional interest: 

Conflict of interest/ Funding:  

None

Corresponding author: 

Júlia Muñoz Martínez, juliamm1@blanquerna.url.edu

Equipping nutrition graduates for the complex realities of practice: Using practitioner perspectives and experiences to inform authentic sustainability curriculum (2023)

Maher, J, Ashford, T, Verdonck, M, English, E, Burkhart, S. Equipping nutrition graduates for the complex realities of practice: Using practitioner perspectives and experiences to inform authentic sustainability curriculum. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2023; 1– 11. https://doi.org/10.1111/jhn.13159

Open access link to article:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jhn.13159

Relevant to:

Dietitians, Practitioners, Nutrition students, Nutrition graduates

Questions the research focuses on:

How do a cohort of Australian N&D professionals perceive opportunities for integrating sustainability into practice? What are the challenges or barriers to realizing these?

Bottom line for nutrition practice:

We recognize practitioners as a source of experience, anticipating where sustainability discourse and nutrition practice intersect.

Abstract:

Background: Nutrition professionals’ function at the nexus of food, nutrition status and the myriad of determinants influencing these. However, defining our role in food system transformation requires a multifaceted and deep understanding of sustainability in the context of nutrition and dietetics (N&D). Practitioner perspectives and experiences provide a rich source of practice wisdom that can inform authentic curriculum to equip students for the complex realities of practice; however, there is limited understanding of these in the Australian higher education setting.

Methods: Qualitative methodology using semi structured interviews with 10 Australian N&D professionals. Thematic analysis was used to understand how they perceive opportunities and barriers for integrating sustainability into practice.

Results: Practitioners’ experience in sustainability practice varied. Themes were identified in two categories: opportunities and barriers. Themes that reflected future practice opportunities included “Preparing the workforce” (for academics and practitioners interfacing with students), “Practical individual level work” and “System level and policy interests”. Themes that were considered barriers to integrating sustainability in practice included “lack of contextual evidence” and “complexity and competing priorities”.

Conclusions: Our findings make a novel contribution to the current literature as we recognise practitioners as a source of experience anticipating where sustainability and nutrition practice intersect. Our work provides practice-informed content and context that may assist educators to create authentic sustainability-focused curriculum and assessment to replicate the complexity of practice.

Details of results:

  • Practitioners found it difficult to name specific examples of sustainability in practice, possibly because of the current landscape where there is a lack of consensus on what sustainability in nutrition and dietetic practice is.
  • Integrating sustainability into nutrition practice was associated with two themes categorized as barriers. These were: a lack of contextual evidence, complexity and competing priorities.
  • Integrating sustainability into nutrition practice was also associated with three themes for opportunities: learning and teaching practice to prepare the workforce; individual-level practice and application; and broader system/policy-level practice.
  • The results show that opportunities and barriers are interconnected, and it is likely that the perceived opportunities can be realized if sectorial, institutional, and government policies change and the profession advances and adapts.
  • Preparing students for practicing with a sustainability lens requires integration of sustainability in its various forms into N&D curriculum and equipping them with the skills and capabilities to contribute meaningfully to N&D practice from an individual to food system level.
  • Knowledge alone may not equip graduates to effectively practice for human and planetary health. Moving forward, practice insights provide a productive platform for curriculum development, both situating practice within the current complex contexts or “realities” at the same time as also considering a future that integrates sustainability and nutrition more closely.
  • There is a predominant environmental focus that may limit the effectiveness of student training, particularly in addressing more challenging and complex situations or settings where environmental concerns must also be balanced with social and economic realities.
  • If governments or institutions have not yet included sustainability within their policies, curriculum developers can. This will then shift the expectation of N&D graduates who may be able to advocate for change from inside government and institutions.

Of additional interest:

ICDA Learning Modules – These three learning modules are structured to support your knowledge in:

  1. understanding foundational concepts of sustainability and food systems,
  2. understanding the relevance of SFS to nutrition and dietetic practice, and
  3. being able to apply SFS concepts in your practice.

NDA SFS Position Papers – Several nutrition and dietetics associations are officially recognising the relevance of Sustainable Food Systems (SFS) and/or sustainable diets to nutrition and dietetics practice.

SFS Education in Nutrition & Dietetics degrees: Global Case Studies – International Dietetic educators integrating sustainability into their curricula. The is an online platform for sharing examples serves as a series of mini case studies

Teaching Food Systems and Sustainability in Nutrition Education and Dietetic Training: Lessons for Educators (2013) – This is a PDF compilation of research and experiential lesson plans from food, nutrition and dietetic educators in the US and Canada.

The Food Sustainability Index (FSI) as an Educational Tool (2016) – The FSI has an intended audience of university students and graduate students, by can be used for anyone who interested in learning more about the connection of food and nutrition to sustainable food systems and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainability: nutrition and dietetic students’ perceptions (2020) – This Australian study explored nutrition and dietetic undergraduate students’ self-reported views and actions related to sustainability, with a view to building a holistic curriculum that includes content and competencies required to address UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Leveraging Online Learning to Promote Systems Thinking for Sustainable Food Systems Training in Dietetics Education (2021) – A multidisciplinary group of educators, learners, and food systems experts representing eight different institutions across the US worked together over one year to develop, pilot test, and evaluate two interactive webinar series. The series was provided for dietetics interns and graduate students at four university sites in the United States between March and May 2019.

Summary: How do dietetics students learn about sustainability? A scoping review (2023) – Despite increasing discussion about the role of dietitians in supporting sustainable food systems, effective integration into dietetics curricula is understudied. Some evidence points to the importance of experiential learning, and scaffolded learning about SFS through integration into a number of different courses.

Conflict of interest/funding:

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

Corresponding author:

Judith Maher, Doctor of Philosophy (Nutrition and Dietetics), jmaher@usc.edu.au

How do dietetics students learn about sustainability? A scoping review (2023)

McCormack, J., Rutherford, S., Ross, L. J., Noble, C., & Bialocerkowski, A. (2023). How do dietetics students learn about sustainability? A scoping review. Nutrition & Dietetics. https://doi.org/10.1111/1747-0080.12795

Link to the article

Open Access: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/1747-0080.12795

Relevant to:

Dietetic Educators, Dietitians, Dietetic Students

Questions the research focuses on:

  1. What teaching approaches and evaluation strategies have been used to underpin the learning activities focused on sustainability in dietetics entry-level curricula?
  2. What are the learning outcomes of these activities based on the Kirkpatrick-Barr framework?
  3. Have the UNESCO and Commonwealth Secretariat recommendations translated into the delivery of sustainability content in nutrition and dietetics entry-level curricula based on articles published since their development?

Bottom line for nutrition practice:

Despite increasing discussion about the role of dietitians in supporting sustainable food systems, effective integration into dietetics curricula is understudied. Without clear competencies and guidance, educators are doing this ad hoc. More guidance is needed. Some evidence points to the importance of experiential learning, and scaffolded learning about SFS through integration into a number of different courses.

Abstract:

Aim: Globally, sustainability and planetary health are emerging as areas of critical importance. In 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by the United Nations member states. Since then, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Commonwealth Secretariat have published guidelines for educators to embed sustainability content into curricula. This scoping review aims to identify how student dietitians learn about sustainability, how learning opportunities are evaluated, their outcomes, and whether these guidelines have translated into teaching activities contained in dietetic degrees.

Methods: A scoping review was used to address the aims. Eight electronic databases and Google Scholar were searched from inception to March 2022 for articles describing dietetics students’ participation in learning activities focused on sustainability. Data that addressed the research aims were charted independently by two researchers, then narratively synthesized.

Results: Twelve articles met the inclusion criteria. A range of teaching approaches and evaluation methods were used, from passive learning in lectures to experiential learning activities. A change in knowledge or behaviour was found for experiential learning activities (n = 5). For articles published after 2015 (n = 9), two mentioned the Sustainable Development Goals and no articles referenced the published guidelines.

Conclusions: A paucity of evidence exists describing how dietetics students learn about sustainability and their learning outcomes. Of the 12 articles published, varied teaching approaches and evaluation methods have resulted in inconsistencies in the reporting of outcomes. The minimal reference to the Sustainable Development Goals and published guidelines suggests a slow translation of knowledge to practice.

Details of results:

  • The database search yielded 1363 unique items. A total of 12 articles met the inclusion criteria and were therefore included in this scoping review. With 12 articles found, each used a unique method. This variety in both the teaching approach and evaluation makes it difficult for dietetics educators to choose an approach that maximizes the knowledge and skills attained by students.
  • Given the drive to upskill both students and dietitians alike in this critical area of practice, longer-term outcomes should be measured. Arguably, the depth and complexity of the knowledge required to develop dietetics students who are competent in this area cannot be taught in one course and requires the development of knowledge and skills to occur over a longer time period. This aligns with recommendations made by UNESCO and the Commonwealth Secretariate that suggest scaffolding content across multiple courses to develop key competencies. UNESCO recommends that educators embed an action-oriented, transformative pedagogy, that is scaffolded across the curriculum, and not contained in a stand-alone course.
  • Based on this review, only three articles referred to the Sustainable Development Goals, and no articles referred to the UNESCO or Commonwealth Secretariat Guidelines.
  • Without clear competencies from professional bodies and guidance on what to include in the curriculum, academics with an interest in sustainability may add content only when necessary.
  • Based on this review of peer-reviewed and grey literature, there is limited literature to describe how student dietitians are learning about sustainability within their dietetics education programs. The variable teaching approaches and evaluation methods used have resulted in inconsistencies in the reporting of outcomes, and the minimal reference to the Sustainable Development Goals and other published guidelines suggests a slow translation of knowledge to practice in the higher education setting.

Of additional interest: 

Conflict of interest/ funding:

Open access publishing facilitated by Griffith University, as part of the Wiley – Griffith University agreement via the Council of Australian University Librarians. The authors declare no conflicts of interests.

Corresponding author:

Joanna McCormack, Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) j.mccormack@griffith.edu.au

Aquatic Foods Toolkit (2023)

A World of Aquatic Foods Resources: Open-access resources designed to empower chefs, foodservice, consumer packaged goods entrepreneurs, healthcare professionals, and other aquatic food advocates in promoting bivalves and sea vegetables.

🌐 You’ll get: Free, open-access toolkits, packed with evidence-based resources, eater insights, tested messaging, nutritional guidance, and inspiring recipes. Access to an interactive Aquatic Foods Ecosystem Map, so you can connect with others creating impact through sea vegetables and bivalves.

Aquatic foods—foods derived from aquatic animals, plants, or algae—have long been enjoyed traditionally by many cultures through the centuries. They have been highlighted in recent landmark reports for their ability to help build a healthy, diversified, equitable, and sustainable food future. Few topics today at the intersection of food, cuisine, health, and sustainability are more exciting than the vast potential of foods from the sea.

For this project, Food for Climate League joined forces with Food + Planet (F+P) and set out to develop narratives that can equip foodservice, CPG, retail, and nutrition professionals to market and promote sustainable aquatic foods successfully. With funding from Builders Initiative, they developed evidence-based health and wellness messaging and narratives for sustainable and nutritious aquatic foods, namely bivalves and sea vegetables.

🪸 The research outlined in the toolkits is a mix of qualitative and quantitative work conducted in 2022 to understand the aquatic foods landscape, including current and potential focus points and narratives around sustainable aquatic foods.

Strategies for reducing meat consumption within college and university settings: A systematic review and meta-analysis (2023 March)

Citation: Chang KB, Wooden A, Rosman L, Altema-Johnson D and Ramsing R (2023) Strategies for reducing meat consumption within college and university settings: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Front. Sustain. Food Syst. 7:1103060. doi: 10.3389/fsufs.2023.1103060 (open access)

  • Introduction: Despite the considerable public and planetary health benefits associated with reducing the amount of meat consumed in high-income countries, there is a limited empirical understanding of how these voluntary changes in food choice can be effectively facilitated across different settings. While prior reviews have given us broad insights into the varying capacities of behavior change strategies to promote meaningful reductions in meat consumption, none have compared how they perform relative to each other within a uniform dining context.
  • Methods: To address this gap in the literature, we synthesized the available research on university-implemented meat reduction interventions and examined the variations in the success rates and effect estimates associated with each of the three approaches identified in our systematic review.
  • Results: From our analyses of the 31 studies that met our criteria for inclusion (n = 31), we found that most were successful in reducing the amount of meat consumed within university settings. Moreover, independent of the number of individual strategies being used, multimodal interventions were found to be more reliable and effective in facilitating these changes in food choice than interventions targeting the choice architecture of the retail environment or conscious decision-making processes alone.
  • Discussion: In addition to demonstrating the overall value of behavior change initiatives in advancing more sustainable dining practices on college and university campuses, this study lends further insights into the merits and mechanics underlying strategically integrated approaches to dietary change. Further investigations exploring the persistence and generalizability of these effects and intervention design principles are needed.

3.4.1. Success rate variations

Figure 4. Grouped bar graph comparing the proportion of interventions associated with significant reductions in meat consumption across each investigated approach. Relative to other approaches, multimodal interventions were more likely to lead to significant reductions in the amount of meat consumed within university settings (p = 0.029). No increases in meat consumption were reported.

Over two-thirds of the included interventions were associated with significant reductions in meat consumption (67.7%). The remaining interventions yielded no differences in behavior (32.3%), with none of the included studies reporting any increases in meat consumption resulting from negative reactance or rebound effects.

Between the three investigated approaches, multimodal interventions were significantly more likely to be associated with reductions in meat consumption than those targeting conscious decision-making processes or the choice architecture of the retail environment alone (p = 0.029) (see Figure 4). There was no difference in the rate of success across interventions targeting the choice architecture of the retail environment and conscious decision-making process.

Interventions using at least two strategies concurrently were also more likely to be associated with reductions in meat consumption than interventions using a single strategy in isolation (p = 0.024), though both sets of interventions significantly reduced the amount of meat consumed within university settings on at least half of the evaluated occasions. Interventions that used promotional messaging strategies, in particular, were successful 57.1% of the time when used in isolation and 76.0% of the time when used in combination with other strategies (p = 0.029).

When comparing the performance between multimodal interventions and unimodal interventions leveraging two or more strategies, multimodal interventions were associated with a higher rate of success (100%, compared to 50.0%) and a greater overall effect on food choice (OR = 2.88 [1.95, 4.64]), compared to (OR = 2.13 [1.64, 3.05]).

There were no significant differences in the success rates associated with interventions conducted in Europe and North America (p = 0.28).

*Correspondence: Kenjin B. Chang, kbc45@cornell.edu