How to Contribute to Sustainable Food Systems and Diets in Your Practice

Understanding sustainability concepts is the first step. Understanding how they are relevant to you is another. Doing it is very different, and there is no one way to do this. In this Learning Module, we will direct you to resources in the toolkit that help you to answer the following questions:

  • What are some of the ways that others have integrated sustainability into practice?
  • Are there any tools that I can use and adapt for use in my practice?
  • Can I share ideas and collaborate with others in nutrition and dietetics?

What are some of the ways that others have integrated sustainability into practice?

While most dietitians agree that sustainable food systems and diets are important topics for dietetics, we should highlight that not everyone agrees. Some feel that this is an area of specialization. Your career is, of course, your own journey, and we encourage you to think of sustainability as a lens through which you look, rather than a particular set of dietary guidelines or actions you must add to your workload.

To explore the question guiding this section, we ask that you examine two case studies. Alternately, you can choose two others you find more interesting or relevant. The Case Studies provide some examples of work that nutrition and dietetic practitioners have been directly or indirectly involved in. Some simply provide good examples that might inspire sustainable decision making in your practice. They show a wide variety of types of work, using different roles, and from different regions. We will periodically add to the case studies to refresh examples for you.

Read

Read the below two case studies (or choose two different ones you find most interesting and relevant).

National School Lunch Program
Never Ending Food

Reflect

After reading through the two case studies to the left, and choosing one example from the field (to the left), reflect on the following questions:

  1. Choose 2-3 examples of ways that food systems are unsustainable and impacting nutritional health in your area.
  2. What solutions do you see that offer synergistic improvements in nutrition and sustainability?  Tip, see previous Learning Module for example role papers for actionable ideas. Ask yourself:
    • What are ways that you can help make sustainable and healthy food part of menus where you work?
    • What are ways you can help clients make sustainable dietary choices?
    • What are ways that you can create or support policy that supports sustainable food systems and diets?
  3. What will encourage decision makers in your organization or community to see the value of providing healthy and sustainable food?

Keep Learning

We encourage you to explore what others have shared under Examples of Sustainability in Practice. Depending on when you are working on this Learning Module, the available examples will vary. Search what is there and find one that is interesting and relevant to you.

  • Can you identify a story shared that is similar to the solutions you identified in question #2 above?

Next, connect with your people in your region to find out if there are any leaders in the field that you can turn to for idea sharing and mentoring.

Are there any tools that I can use and adapt for use in my practice?

A lack of supporting tools can be a barrier. There are few tools specific to nutrition and dietetic practice. You will find some tools developed for other purposes, but that can be adapted to your practice, in the existing resource database. Our team is also developing some tools for practice that are ready-for-use. We will draw from examples of both so that you can practice finding tools useful to you.

Read

To help you answer this question, we highlight a few diverse examples from our existing resources for you to look at. Pick one of the following three, or feel free to search and filter the existing resource database to find others you find more relevant.

Teaching Food Systems and Sustainability in Nutrition Education and Dietetic Training: Lessons for Educators

This document is compilation of lesson plans from food, nutrition and dietetic educators at universities and food organizations in the US and Canada.

One Blue Dot: Eating Patterns for Healthy and Sustainable Diets

This web-based toolkit offers a series of downloadable PDF resources outlining healthy eating patterns and sustainable diets in the European context. This includes evidence summaries, infographics, PowerPoint slides and meal swap ideas.

Marine Stewardship Council

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) website offers information on the certification process as well as recipes, food guides, educational materials and support for supply chain actors about sustainable seafood in 18 languages.

In response to a demand for short, downloadable, and specific descriptions of “what to do” to get started, our team has also developed a few ideas that you can use in practice. Please take a look one of the following three, or browse the tools for practice to find one more relevant to you.

Making Institutional Foodservices More Healthy & Sustainable

This activity is meant for those in foodservice and administration roles who are interested in menu and policy change. It is relevant to North America, Europe, Australasia and anywhere else with similar institutional food service
models. The objectives of this activity are to:

  • Consider and identify opportunities for making food at your organization more healthy and sustainable
  • Identify effective strategies and perspectives for communicating the benefits of making
    menu and policy changes in institutional settings
  • Create a strategic plan for moving forward in creating practical change

Great Meals for a Change

This activity, based on fun and playful meal-sharing activities, is meant for those with roles in community, education and research who are interested in education, developing their own knowledge and activating change. It is relevant to any region. The objectives of the activity are to:

  • Spark conversations about sustainable food systems
  • Shares experiences about sustainability, sustainable food, and food systems
  • Engage in sustainable behaviour through social learning

Food Traditions and Cultural Wisdom

This activity is an introductory level suite of discussion-based activities to get community members, fellow professionals, or clients thinking about how their own food traditions and cultural wisdom aligns with sustainability. It is designed for dietetic educators or community nutritionists involved in community education and programming. The objectives are to:

  • Articulate local food traditions and cultural notions surrounding nutrition
  • Make links between food traditions and cultural wisdom and western scientific nutrition
    models
  • Identify contradictions between these two
  • Consider how valuing and celebrating local food traditions and cultural wisdom can support
    an integrated understanding of the interconnections between nutrition and sustainability

Reflect

After looking trough examples of the existing and summarized tools for practice, please reflect on the following questions.

  1. Are any of these resources able to support the the ideas and solutions you came up with in question #2 above? If yes, keep a list of practical tools that you can use. If not, can you find any helpful resources or tools in the existing resource database?
  2. Did any of the tools for practice spark new ideas for you about how you can creatively approach sustainability in your practice? If yes, what ideas were sparked? Create a brainstorm list or idea map and keep it in your files, or on your office wall to remind you. Write down any tools that might be helpful.

Keep Learning

See the below activities about sharing ideas for continued learning about how to contribute to sustainable food systems in your practice.

Can I share ideas and collaborate with others in nutrition and dietetics?

In this section we encourage learning by doing. We ask you to read, reflect and share stories with your colleagues.

Read

Read a few of the stories shared by your colleagues that show examples of sustainability in practice. Become familiar with what others are doing, how they are sharing their story.

Reflect

After reading stories from your peers, critically reflect on the following questions.

  1. Are the stories they are sharing contributing to sustainability and sustainable food systems as you understand them? Tip, revisit the first Learning Module exploring these topics to refresh your understanding of the concepts.
  2. Can you think of how to adapt their ideas to your own practice and context?
  3. Can you think of a similar story to share, either about your own work, or that of a colleague in your region which deserves recognition?

Share

Share your story with us. That will help build the network of ideas. You can participate in the discussion forum to discuss your ideas and questions with your colleagues.

Summary

In this Learning Module, you explored resources in the toolkit that help you to answer the following questions:

  • What are some of the ways that others have integrated sustainability into practice?
  • Are there any tools that I can use and adapt for use in my practice?
  • Can I share ideas and collaborate with others in nutrition and dietetics?

You are welcome to explore the other Learning Modules if you have not already. Or, browse freely through the toolkit to find supports that are helpful to you. Good luck!