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 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.

Catalan Food Based Dietary Guideline (2020)(Catalan)

The Catalan Food Based Dietary Guideline was developed by the Catalan Public Health Agency and is a very useful tool for following a healthy and sustainable diet. Sustainability recommendations are provided in boxes called “care about the environment” such as drinking tap water, prioritizing consumption of legumes more than meat, consuming local foods, purchasing olive oil in large packaging to reduce plastic use, and more.

This resource is in Catalan only. It was provided by @juliamunoz_dn the ICDA SFS Toolkit’s Regional Contact for Spain.

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.

EFAD Position Paper: Sustainable Dietary Patterns (2021)

An interdisciplinary approach is needed to successfully integrate more sustainable healthy diets into a complex system of food production and supply. To achieve that goal, European dietetic associations and the European dietitian workforce are committed and willing to promote healthier and more sustainable dietary patterns through affordable diets that are diversified, nutritious, less resource-intensive, and produce minimal waste.

EFAD also asks European countries to review their national food-based dietary guidelines to include sustainability aspects as a connecting force for the health and the environment and calls upon policymakers, civil society, food industry, farmers, and consumers to support actions and policies which facilitate transitions towards a healthier and greener Europe.
The time is now and the European dietitians are ready.

The position Paper was developed as part of the Sustainable Dietary Patterns Program of EFAD Learning supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Danone and Nestle. it was adopted by an EFAD General Meeting October 2021. It was developed an EFAD working group: Manuel Moñino, Andreja Misir, Katerina Belogianni, Klaus Nigl, Ada Rocha, Angela Garcia Gonzalez, Katarzyna Janiszewska. EFAD Position Paper on Sustainable Dietary Patterns was originally published in Komp Nutr Diet 2021;1:118–119 DOI: 10.1159/000519851.

EFAD is the umbrella organisation for the National Dietetic Associations across Europe. Their primary goal is to improve nutritional health and promote sustainable diets in Europe by advocating the leadership role for dietitians in collaboration with members and stakeholders. All with the aim of improving the health and lives of European citizens.

Native Food Supply Chains Report by First Peoples Worldwide (2022 Nov)

From 2021-2022, via direct engagement with over 85 Native food producers and entrepreneurs, First Peoples Worldwide collected qualitative and quantitative information from Native farmers, ranchers, harvesters, fishers, chefs, and practitioners to examine the current state of Native food supply chains and to collate recommendations towards strengthening and expanding these chains from Native perspectives. In addition to nearly 40 recommendations, overarching themes are:

  • Native food businesses are creating food systems that care for both Native and non-Native people, guided by Indigenous values and self-determination.
  • Systemic racism and inequitable access to capital continue to have profound and far reaching impacts on Native food systems, from lack of infrastructure to limited personnel bandwidth.
  • Many of the barriers limiting the current supply of Native-produced foods can be addressed through creating sustained and equitable access to capital.
  • At the broadest level, Native food producers are creating immense social value through their work, guided by Indigenous values that see the interconnections between Native food systems and individual, social, and environmental wellbeing.

Changing behaviour to help more people waste less food: a guide (2022 Aug)

Food loss and waste occurs throughout the food system – from farm through to fork. This guide focuses on food waste from households which is a significant issue in many countries. The causes of food waste at household level are complex. There are many drivers and many behaviours, which lead to food being wasted. Many organisations and others who interact with householders have a role to play in helping people reduce the amount of food they waste – by helping to raise awareness and then helping address the barriers to reducing food waste, whether they are related to the product offering or a result of behaviours, skills and knowledge.

Champions 12.3 has collated this guide to help key actors in the food system to focus on how they can help consumers reduce food waste through behaviour change. Recognising the urgent need for strategies addressing consumer food waste, Champions 12.3 brought together in June 2021 food waste experts from around the world, including many with behavioural change expertise, for a workshop to generate promising strategies based on experience and evidence. This guide organises the content generated from this workshop into categories for five key actors in the food system: policy makers, food businesses, non-food businesses, non-profits, and educators/other influencers. It then provides actions they can take to help address consumer food waste.

There is no single solution which will result in sustainable behaviour change to reduce household food waste. Initiatives should consist of partnerships between the different actors and should be evidence-based, using an appropriate behavioural change model wherever possible. They should use a combination of raising awareness together with practical tips and tools to increase “ability” and “opportunity” to reduce food waste.

The guide has sought to illustrate the approaches using real life examples. However, there are still only a small number of examples of behaviour change approaches being used with consumers where the impact and effectiveness has been properly evaluated. This guide can therefore only be a starting point. More examples are needed, especially from the global South.

The evidence suggests that changing consumer behaviours is not easy. Simple awareness raising is not enough. It is important to understand the drivers for food being wasted at a household level and real change requires a mix of interventions that target specific behaviours. This will best be achieved by a partnership of actors in the food system working together.

ReFED (website)

ReFED is a national nonprofit dedicated to ending food loss and waste across the U.S. food system by advancing data-driven solutions. They have a holistic view of the food system and are working to achieve a 50% food waste reduction in accordance with the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The have purposeful action:

  • That’s driven by solutions to specific challenges.
  • That’s grounded in data.
  • That’s targeted to where it can benefit the most.
  • That’s coordinated across multiple stakeholders and evaluated to ensure success.

The have 10 modeled solutions for which a quantitative estimate of effectiveness in diverting food waste, as well as cost and benefit expectations to multiple stakeholders. The were compiled based on data from solution providers, scientific studies, and expert guidance: https://refed.org/action-areas/reshape-consumer-environments

Sustainable healthy diets – Guiding principles (2019)

Acknowledging the existence of diverging views on the concepts of sustainable diets and healthy diets, countries have requested guidance from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) on what constitutes sustainable healthy diets. The two organisations jointly held an international expert consultation on Sustainable and Healthy Diets from 1 to 3 July 2019 at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy, to address these issues.

The Consultation agreed on guiding principles for what constitutes “Sustainable Healthy Diets”. This comes at a time when the debate around the sustainability of diets is high on the agenda of governments, international organisations, civil society organisations, the private sector and academia.

These guiding principles take a holistic approach to diets; they consider international nutrition recommendations; the environmental cost of food production and consumption; and the adaptability to local social, cultural and economic contexts. At the Consultation the experts agreed on the term “Sustainable Healthy Diets” which encompasses the two dimensions – sustainability and healthiness of diets. Countries should decide on the trade-offs according to their situations and goals.

These guiding principles emphasize the role of food consumption and diets in contributing to the achievement of the SDGs at country level, especially Goals 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero Hunger), 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), 4 (Quality Education), 5 (Gender Equality) and 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and 13 (Climate Action).

This publication on Sustainable Healthy Diets – Guiding principles (2019) aims to support the efforts of countries as they work to transform food systems to deliver on sustainable healthy diets.