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)

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.

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.

Solving the Great Food Puzzle: Right Innovation, Right Impact, Right Place. (2023)

WWF (2023). Solving the Great Food Puzzle: Right Innovation, Right Impact, Right Place. Loring, P., Loken, B., Meyer, M., Polack, S., Paolini, A., et al. WWF, Gland, Switzerland

Our food systems are at the centre of some of the biggest challenges of our time, which means they must also be at the centre of our quest for solutions.

As we work to solve the Great Food Puzzle, innovations are key to unlocking the potential of food systems as solutions to the nature and climate crises.

On its own, innovation won’t be enough to achieve healthy diets from sustainable food systems for all; still, innovations can accelerate national-level food system transformation by helping to close three critical gaps that can hinder action in countries. These gaps are: (i) the ambition gap; (ii) the transformation gap; and (iii) the implementation gap.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution that can deliver the food systems transformations needed in all countries around the world. The Right Innovation, Right Impact, Right Place framework will help anyone designing or supporting innovations in food systems to build an innovation toolkit to maximize impact and achieve national-level health and environmental goals.

Ultimately and most importantly, who is at the table and who is empowered to take the lead matters. What makes this paper novel is the set of concepts and questions we have assembled and how we bring these to life with examples of a wide range of innovations from around the world, some novel and highly technological, others familiar but applied in creative new ways.

As we all work to solve the Great Food Puzzle, we hope the Right Innovation, Right Impact, Right Place framework presented in this study will help ensure that each action taken will have the most impact in the shortest time possible.

RIGHT INNOVATION
means choosing innovations that amplify the impacts of transformation levers and ideally can be applied to affect one or more levers to accelerate change.

RIGHT IMPACT
means anticipating the kind of change and impact any proposed innovation might have in a particular place.

RIGHT PLACE
means paying close attention to the social and ecological context in which the innovation is to be implemented.

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

Measurement of diets that are healthy, environmentally sustainable, affordable, and equitable: A scoping review of metrics, findings, and research gaps (2023 Apr)

Citation: Webb P, Livingston Staffier K, Lee H, Howell B, Battaglia K, Bell BM, Matteson J, McKeown NM, Cash SB, Zhang FF, Decker Sparks JL and Blackstone NT (2023) Measurement of diets that are healthy, environmentally sustainable, affordable, and equitable: A scoping review of metrics, findings, and research gaps. Front. Nutr. 10:1125955. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2023.1125955

Introduction: Research on the impacts of dietary patterns on human and planetary health is a rapidly growing field. A wide range of metrics, datasets, and analytical techniques has been used to explore the role of dietary choices/constraints in driving greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, environmental degradation, health and disease outcomes, and the affordability of food baskets. Many argue that each domain is important, but few have tackled all simultaneously in analyzing diet-outcome relationships.

Methods: This paper reviews studies published between January 2015 and December 2021 (inclusive) that examined dietary patterns in relation to at least two of the following four thematic pillars: (i) planetary health, including, climate change, environmental quality, and natural resource impacts, (ii) human health and disease, (iii) economic outcomes, including diet cost/affordability, and (iv) social outcomes, e.g., wages, working conditions, and culturally relevant diets. We systematically screened 2,425 publications by title and abstract and included data from 42 eligible publications in this review.

Results: Most dietary patterns used were statistically estimated or simulated rather than observed. A rising number of studies consider the cost/affordability of dietary scenarios in relation to optimized environmental and health outcomes. However, only six publications incorporate social sustainability outcomes, which represents an under-explored dimension of food system concerns.

Discussion: This review suggests a need for (i) transparency and clarity in datasets used and analytical methods; (ii) explicit integration of indicators and metrics linking social and economic issues to the commonly assessed diet-climate-planetary ecology relationships; (iii) inclusion of data and researchers from low- and middle-income countries; (iv) inclusion of processed food products to reflect the reality of consumer choices globally; and (v) attention to the implications of findings for policymakers. Better understanding is urgently needed on dietary impacts on all relevant human and planetary domains simultaneously.

The Supplementary Material for this article can be found online at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2023.1125955/full#supplementary-material

*Correspondence: Patrick Webb, patrick.webb@tufts.edu