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.

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

Farm to Fork strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system (EU, 2020)

The Farm to Fork Strategy is part of the European Green Deal aiming to make food systems fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly. Food systems cannot be resilient to crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic if they are not sustainable. We need to redesign our food systems which today account for nearly one-third of global GHG emissions, consume large amounts of natural resources, result in biodiversity loss and negative health impacts (due to both under- and over-nutrition) and do not allow fair economic returns and livelihoods for all actors, in particular for primary producers. Putting our food systems on a sustainable path also brings new opportunities for operators in the food value chain. New technologies and scientific discoveries, combined with increasing public awareness and demand for sustainable food, will benefit all stakeholders.

The Farm to Fork Strategy aims to accelerate our transition to a sustainable food system that should:

  • have a neutral or positive environmental impact
  • help to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts
  • reverse the loss of biodiversity
  • ensure food security, nutrition and public health, making sure that everyone has access to sufficient, safe, nutritious, sustainable food
  • preserve affordability of food while generating fairer economic returns, fostering competitiveness of the EU supply sector and promoting fair trade

Impacto ecológico de la alimentación en España (2022)

Presentamos la nueva edición (31) de Cuadernos de las Cooperativas de Consumidores con un monográfico sobre el «Impacto ecológico de la alimentación en España». Nuestros hábitos de alimentación y el sistema actual de producción y consumo de alimentos tienen un indudable impacto en la salud del planeta, de manera que las decisiones de compra y consumo deberían ser tomadas con la mayor información posible.

Como sociedad, es necesario avanzar hacia modelos más sostenibles y todos los eslabones de la cadena alimentaria deben contribuir a mitigar el impacto ambiental de nuestras prácticas y actividades. Analizado en términos de oportunidad, el camino hacia la sostenibilidad se presenta como un buen momento para transformar nuestro sistema alimentario.

En este trabajo se aborda, desde el punto de vista del sector de la alimentación, cómo nuestros comportamientos y decisiones de consumo generan considerables impactos ambientales y qué se necesita para minimizar los efectos de nuestros hábitos cotidianos con respecto a los alimentos. Esta publicación forma parte del Proyecto “Impacto ecológico de la alimentación”, subvencionado por Ministerio de Consumo, y cuenta con el apoyo y colaboración del Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación.

Hemos conseguido reunir las reflexiones de responsables en la materia y reconocidos especialistas, incluyendo los aspectos normativos y nutricionales, dando voz al sector de la producción y la distribución comercial. Cada artículo se aproxima al problema con un punto de vista diferente, configurando un completo trabajo de lectura recomendada.

Las personas consumidoras quieren reducir su huella ecológica y ya apuestan por las empresas que se comprometen y actúan para reducir tanto sus emisiones como los impactos ambientales. Pero cada día es más patente la gran distancia que existe entre la intención y la acción. A esto se añade el aumento del coste de la vida, que impide tomar decisiones de forma responsable con el planeta. En esta situación, el precio se ha convertido en una barrera para el comportamiento sostenible, por lo que debemos tener en consideración a aquellos colectivos de personas vulnerables para que no se queden fuera en estos momentos y avancen igualmente en el camino hacia la reducción del impacto ambiental de los hábitos de compra y consumo de alimentos. 

En la apuesta por la sostenibilidad, compartida de forma unánime por todos los sectores, hay muchas lagunas y la persona consumidora, como último eslabón de la cadena, reclama más información y un compromiso real y contrastable del sector de la alimentación con el medio ambiente, para que se ofrezcan productos que nos permita seguir unos patrones de alimentación más saludables, a la vez que sostenibles. 

Con este Monográfico también queremos hacer, en nombre de las cooperativas de consumo un llamamiento al compromiso sincero con la sostenibilidad, impulsando innovaciones y nuevas oportunidades empresariales, que permitan avanzar hacia un sistema alimentario más sostenible y respetuoso con el planeta y las personas.

‘It’s a constant changing environment, and we’re just playing catch up’: Hospital food services, food waste, and COVID-19 (2022 Jun)

(available for download at the bottom)

Cook N, Goodwin D,Collins J, Porter J.‘It’s a constant changingenvironment, and we’re just playing catch up’:Hospital food services, food waste, and COVID-19.Nutrition & Dietetics. 2022;1‐10. doi:10.1111/1747-0080.12762

Open access link to article: 

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/1747-0080.12762

Relevant to: 

Foodservice dietitians

Question: 

The research wanted to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on hospital foodservice practices. Specifically, how COVID-19 impacted the completion of food waste audits and the generation of food waste in hospital foodservice.

Bottom line for nutrition practice: 

  • Foodservice staff are a resilient workforce group
  • Forced changes in resource allocation and usage allowed foodservices to adapt and learn to work with COVID-19 restrictions, potentially beginning the path to post-pandemic services.
  • This stage of the ‘green recovery’ can be led by dietitians and may incorporate food waste audits as a higher priority.
  • The success of electronic menu management tools during this period to combat contact restrictions may see them remain as ‘standard procedure’ for food waste data collection and be selected for uptake in additional hospitals who do not have this technology currently.

Abstract: 

  • Aims: Hospital food service operations have been affected by the COVID-19pandemic, particularly resulting in increased waste. The aim of this research was to explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on hospital food ser-vices, particularly on food waste and the completion of food waste audits.
  • Methods: A qualitative interview research design was used. Semi-structured interviews were completed and recorded via Zoom, focusing on the barriers and enablers towards the completion of hospital food waste audits. Twenty-one participants were interviewed from 12 hospitals. No questions were related o the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on hospital food services, however this issue frequently emerged during interviews. Data were coded following inductive thematic analysis.
  • Results: Five themes were generated from the interviews related to COVID-19and hospital food services; impacts on practice, labour, change, technology and post-pandemic expectations. Participants reported COVID-19 negatively affected food service operations. Changes included increased food waste, con-tact restrictions, and labour shortages. Nonetheless, hospitals embraced the challenge and created new positions, trialled different food waste data collection methods, and utilised technology to support food service operations around COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Conclusions: Despite the impact COVID-19 had on hospital food services, including their ability to audit food waste and increased food waste generation, the response from food services has demonstrated their adaptability to change. Sustainable healthcare, including the aggregate measuring and reduction of food waste in hospital food services, is an essential transition post-pandemic, and may be facilitated through the operational changes forced by COVID-19.

Details of results: 

Five themes were generated from the data after inductive coding was completed: these are below in dot point format with some of the dominant responses presented.

  1. Impacts on practice
    • Infection prevention led to increased pre-packaged single serve food, utensils, crockery and their waste
    • The re-use, storage, or donation of used items was prohibited
    • Waste disposed of in patient rooms
    • Forecasting was impacted by COVID peaks
  2. Change
    • Some changes occurred immediately, others took time
    • Reduction in hospital catering services
    • COVID-19 as an excuse to trialing new practice
    • Ingredients inaccessible and out of stock
  3. Technology
    • Room service was recommended to forecast meal numbers and support food service delivery
    • Electronic menu management systems with waste measurement capabilities were supportive in plate waste data collection but not available at all sites due to cost, equipment, and manual data collection still being part of standard practice
  4. Labour
    • Higher than usual sick leave
    • Failure to hire new staff (>300 interviews completed at one site)
    • Individuals forced to step in to new and unfamiliar roles (e.g. manager to chef)
    • Cumulative pressure on staff throughout COVID including vaccine mandate in Victoria which resulted in loss of staff
    • Nutrition students unavailable to hospitals for placement
  5. Post Pandemic expectations
    • Hope for practice to return to normal as soon as possible or when the pandemic is ‘over’
    • Planning for future emergencies already to counteract drastic changes in service and practice

Of additional interest: 

Editor’s comment:  

@nathan_cook includes the audit tool with descriptions for you available at this link in the side bar.

Conflict of interest/ Funding:  

One author of the research is an editor at the journal, however the journal undergoes a blinded peer review process. Funding was received by Nathan Cook in the form of a scholarship from the King and Amy O’Malley Trust Scholarship and the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food at Monash University as part of his PhD.

External relevant links:  

A blog describing the research article – http://monashnutrition.blogspot.com/2022/09/hospitals-covid-food-waste-dilemma.html

Corresponding author: 

Nathan Cook, @nathan_cook, PhD candidate, nathan.cook@monash.edu

Taking a Food Systems Approach to Policymaking: A Resource for Policymakers

To articulate what it means to take a food systems approach and support policymakers around the world to do so, R4D and City, University of London created a package of resources consisting of an evidence review and four technical briefs. These resources define a food systems approach, explore potential entry points in different sectors, present ways to identify and engage relevant stakeholders, and discuss the cost and financing considerations. Building on existing knowledge, frameworks, and thinking, they provide pragmatic and practical ideas for how to operationalize a food systems approach holistically and effectively to achieve a greater impact on food system outcomes. They provide country examples that illustrate real-world lessons and give links to existing tools and resources that policymakers can use to get started or bolster ongoing efforts.

These resources have a particular focus on how a food systems approach can advance healthy diets and nutrition—but they can be applied to any food systems challenge. Indeed, because a food systems approach aims to maximize benefits and minimize risks for objectives across the food system, it fundamentally incorporates consideration of multiple outcomes.

There are 6 documents: 1 to provide an overview, 1 on evidence, then 4 technical briefs.

The four technical briefs aim to support policymakers on how to make policy decisions to shift the food system toward better outcomes. They convey practical information—not as prescriptions, but as ideas and options that can be adapted to the local challenges and opportunities faced by different countries. The technical briefs are based on existing evidence, case studies, and tools, and they offer resources and considerations for policymakers. They can be read sequentially as a set or as standalone briefs. Each begins with a summary of key points, and each recommends other resources that offer more in-depth information.

  1. Brief I. Taking a Food Systems Approach to Policymaking: What, How, and Why – Articulates what a food systems approach is and why it is valuable for policymakers
  2. Brief II. Taking a Food Systems Approach to Policymaking: Managing Stakeholders and Identifying Policy Entry Points – Explains how to take a more collective approach to policymaking by identifying the relevant stakeholders, using multistakeholder mechanisms to bring these stakeholders together, and identifying policy entry points for action
  3. Brief III. Taking a Food Systems Approach to Policymaking: Developing a Shared Agenda – Shares tools and methods to guide policy decision-making, help assess policy coherence, and mitigate and manage conflicts
  4. Brief IV. Taking a Food Systems Approach to Policymaking: Costing and Financing – Discusses some of the cost and financing implications of a food systems approach

Acknowledgments: This resource package was developed by the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London and Results for Development (R4D), with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). The team from City, University of London comprised Corinna Hawkes and Ursula Trübswasser. The resource package was developed through consultations with global and country actors, and the authors are grateful to members of the Advisory Group for providing advice and feedback throughout the process and reviewing drafts.

The advisory group is listed in the overview document and several are in nations where ICDA member are – also look at the different sectors they come from, reaching our sector to sector can be a great link, too. Any of them could be your great opportunity to Collaborate. Reach out to them – through the authors if need be – or reach out to the ICDA SFS Coordinator and we’ll help you navigate the network. We’ve started you off with links to their organizations.

Together we can achieve Sustainable Food Systems!

StratKIT Platform – Sustainable public procurement and catering network & Sustainable Public Meal Toolkit (website)

StratKIT Platform sustainable public procurement and catering network offers open knowledge resources on sustainable public procurement and catering services. The details are in the StratKIT report.

The Sustainable Public Meal Toolkit provides experience-based advice on how to set up innovative strategies and activities for sustainable public procurement and catering services. The toolkit was developed in the Baltic Sea Region countries but can be used in many more places due to the generic descriptions in the tools. Start the change in your municipality, your company, your school, your hospital, or elsewhere! The tools, collected during the Interreg-BSR project StratKIT, range from strategic approaches to concrete activities in public catering facilities.

More than fifty tools are available for stakeholders involved in the provision of public meals, whether they be policymakers, procurers, caterers, producers, suppliers, consumers, or other public and private bodies. While all tools originated from BSR countries, some have been developed and piloted within the StratKIT project. Each tool is presented as a step-by-step procedure. To find tools suitable for your situation, you can either browse them all or find collections of tools for different topics in the thematic gateways. Add the most suitable tools to your own collection to download and print.

Climate and Health Alliance (website) 

The Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) is an Australian coalition of health care stakeholders who work together to see the threat to human health from climate change and ecological degradation addressed. Together they are driving the sector-wide “Our Climate Our Health” campaign, including spearheading a national consultation to develop the world-leading “Framework for a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Well-being”, endorsed by over 50 health, social welfare and conservation groups. They have established a pacific network of “Global Green and Healthy Hospitals”, supporting members representing more than 1,700 hospitals and healthcare providers across Australia & NZ to reduce emissions and environmental footprint. 

UN Food Systems Coordination Hub (post-UNFSS) (2021, 2022)(website)

2022: Food Systems Coordination Hub is hosted by FAO on behalf of the UN system. The Chair of the UN Task Force will rotate among interested UN agencies with strong connections to the work of the Hub. Taking over from the Food Systems Summit Secretariat, the Coordination Hub will help draw on the best of the UN System and all constituencies to build on the momentum and deliverables that emerged through the Summit process to achieve the 2030 Agenda and sustainable food systems for all. Activities will include: continued support to food systems national dialogues and national pathways through the coordination of technical and policy support requested by countries as they formulate and implement national pathways for food systems transformation; staying connected with the broader ecosystem of actors for sustainable food systems, including Coalitions and other initiatives as well as the science ecosystem, and promote the better integration of these efforts with country demand; and, the elevation of priority topics in the food systems transformation agenda for strategic thought leadership of UN Agencies and leading actors in the ecosystem of support.”

2021: Convened by the UN Secretary-General, over 160 Member States, representatives of partners and stakeholder groups, came together at the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) on 23-24 September 2021 where they articulated hundreds of individual and collective solutions and commitments to transform food systems to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The UNFSS Action Tracks offer stakeholders from a wide range of backgrounds a space to share and learn, with a view to fostering new actions and partnerships and amplifying existing initiatives. The Action Tracks are aligned with the Summit’s five objectives. Importantly, the Action Tracks are not separate, nor do they sit in siloes. Each Action Track is designed to address possible trade-offs with other tracks, and to identify solutions that can deliver wide-reaching benefits. Together, they explore how key cross-cutting levers of change such as human rights, finance, innovation, and the empowerment of women and young people can be mobilized to meet the Summit’s objectives.