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.

Innovative Food Systems Teaching and Learning (IFSTAL)

IFSTAL (Innovative Food Systems Teaching and Learning) is a cross-university, interdisciplinary food systems training programme for postgraduate students to address global food challenges.

There is an urgent need to train a cohort of professionals who can address and resolve the increasing number of fundamental failings in the global food system. The solutions to these systemic failings go far beyond the production of food and are embedded within broad political, economic, business, social, cultural, and environmental contexts. The challenge of developing efficient, socially acceptable, and sustainable food systems that meet the demands of a growing global population can only be tackled through an interdisciplinary systems approach that integrates social, economic, and environmental dimensions.

IFSTAL is designed to improve post-graduate level knowledge and understanding of food systems from a much broader interdisciplinary perspective, which can be applied to students’ studies. Ultimately, these graduates should be equipped to apply critical interdisciplinary systems thinking in the workplace to understand how problems are connected, their root causes, and where critical leverage points might be.

Led by the Food Systems Research Programme at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, IFSTAL is a pioneering consortium of institutions: Oxford University, Warwick University, Royal Veterinary College, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

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

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.

European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) Food

EIT Food is an initiative of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT), the mission is to transform how food is produced, distributed, and consumed and to increase its value to European society. They achieve this by solving the biggest innovation challenges through trusted industry, education and research partners working together with informed and engaged citizens. They believe inclusive systems innovation, which enables all people and places to participate and benefit, is essential to a strong food system that is better for everyone.

With teams on the ground across Europe, they bridge the gap between countries and regions with low innovation capacity and those leading the way. They put consumers at the heart of our work, helping build trust by reconnecting them to the origins of their food, directly involving them in the innovation process, and working with the food sector to increase transparency. Collaboration is central to all their work, which spans the whole food value chain, and is vital to meet the big challenges. Together with the community, they work to build an innovative and resilient food system that in turn creates a healthier society and planet.

Initiatives include:

  • EIT Food Educators that provides teachers with fun, creative and interesting activities to engage young people, mainly schoolchildren. Easily accessible, science-based food education materials enhance students’ learning so they can become better informed, conscious consumers of the future. The vision is a world where all young people have access to food education and are aware of exciting and innovative agrifood careers. The mission is to support educators to teach, engage and inspire young people about the food they eat and consider a career in agrifood.
  • EIT FoodUnfolded – Articles, videos and podcasts will take you on a journey through our food system, covering everything from where our food comes from and how it’s made, to the chemistry behind food and how it affects our bodies, to the impact that food production can have on people and the environment – and innovations and alternative practices that could help reduce that impact. Learning more about our food and its origins can deeply impact our food choices, the system our choices affect and, ultimately, help protect our planet. By bringing facts and stories to life, they hope to help you navigate these everyday decisions through knowledge. Together, we can transform the future of our food.
  • EIT FoodHIVE a network which is working together to make a more sustainable, healthy and trusted food system. Members range from leading businesses, research centres and universities, to food investors, mentors, students, startups and alumni. To bring this diverse community together, they have created FoodHIVE, a digital platform to share, network and collaborate.

Sustainable Food Systems Network (EUFIC)

European Food Information Council (EUFIC)‘s Global Sustainable Food Systems Network facilitates communication and collaboration amongst stakeholders in sustainable food systems (SFS) across the globe. In this community, you will find policy makers, business professionals, civil society organizations, researchers, NGOs/non-profit organizations, funding agencies and interested citizens. The network allows members to:

  • Add to and use the resources section
  • Reach out to members through the chat in a field/topic you are interested in. Network, ask questions, build bridges. Chat conversations are private and confidential!
  • Publish about events you are organizing regarding SFS (on average, 30-120 members attend events shared in the feed!)
  • Peruse the calendar of events shared by other members.
  • Share calls, documents, reports, papers, etc. that you think are interesting for the whole community.
  • Ask the community for feedback and start a conversation, e.g. by creating a poll!
  • Share job openings as “opportunities”. The network currently spans 2000+ people, and their personal networks spread much further.

The SFSN Community leaders send a biweekly newsletter with featured shared events, opportunities, posts, and new members for further dissemination.

If you have any feedback, questions or would like to get more involved, email sfsn@eufic.org or contact us directly through the chat (search Community Managers).

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.

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.

From Plate To Planet (2023 Nov)

The IPES-Food report From Plate To Planet identifies inspiring examples of comprehensive food and climate action by city and regional governments drawn from Glasgow Declaration signatories. The report urges national governments to stop neglecting food systems in their climate pledges, and to pay attention to the pioneering emissions-slashing efforts of cities and regions.

Top line messages:

1 – We cannot limit global warming to 1.5C without much more urgent and far reaching action to transform food systems.

2 – Cities and regional governments are pioneering action on food and climate change – and the frontrunners are even linking up actions and measuring their progress. The report details dozens of inspiring examples and stories of effective on-the-ground action. They are cutting emissions by promoting healthy and sustainable diets, reducing food waste, shortening food chains, training organic farmers, and ensuring their poorest inhabitants can access healthy and sustainable food.

3 – Their actions to holistically reduce emissions from food systems and encourage healthy, sustainable food for all ​​provide a blueprint for action on food and climate. This blueprint is one in which social justice, participation, accountability are put at the heart of climate action.

4 – Such innovative action contrasts dramatically with weak and fragmented action on food and climate change by national governments – as shown by their inadequate national climate pledges submitted under the Paris Agreement [NDCs]. Despite contributing one third of global greenhouse gas emissions and using 15% of fossil fuels, food systems are routinely overlooked in climate negotiations and climate plans.

IPES-Food recommends:

  • National governments use the example of cities and regional governments as a blueprint for food and climate action – to inspire national food and climate policies.
  • Governments act in coordination with city and regional governments, and provide more funding to them to take action on food and climate change, scaling it out to every city and region.
  • Governments take the opportunity of the Paris Agreement stocktaking moment at COP28 to revise national climate commitments to systematically include food systems and local action.

WHY SHOULD WE PAY ATTENTION NOW?

  • Inspiring success stories show us what can and needs to be done
  • City and regional governments have continued to make progress in spite of mounting challenges
  • Local sustainable food strategies show a blueprint for climate action with accountability, social justice, and participation, at its heart
  • They’re working and they’re popular

FAST FACTS

Food systems are responsible for ⅓ of global greenhouse gas emissions:

  • 13% agriculture and livestock
  • 11% land-use change
  • 10% transport, processing, packaging, retail, and waste

Food system actions could drive major reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions:

  • 18% well-managed changes to production practices
  • 8% transitioning to sustainable diets and halving meat production and consumption
  • 8% halving food loss & waste

Local governments lead climate action

  • 18 national governments and the EU have declared a climate emergency, vs. 2,317 local and regional authorities.

Greenhouse gas emissions reductions committed by local and regional governments go 35% above and beyond those pledged by national governments.