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)

A pathway to personal, population and planetary health for dietitians and nutrition professionals (2023 Nov)

MacKenzie-Shalders, K. L., Barbour, L., Charlton, K., Cox, G. R., Lawrence, M., Murray, S., Newberry, K., Senior, N. M., Stanton, R., & Tagtow, A. M. (2023). A pathway to personal, population and planetary health for dietitians and nutrition professionals. Public Health Nutrition, Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1002/puh2.137

Abstract

Background

Earth and all its inhabitants are threatened by a planetary crisis; including climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss and pollution. Dietitians and nutrition professionals have a responsibility to lead transformational change in contemporary food and health systems to help mitigate this crisis. The study aims to develop a conceptual framework to support dietitians towards personal, population and planetary health.

Methods

Non-empirical methods were used by the co-researchers to explore and explain the application of an international framework ‘Next-Generation Solutions to Address Adaptive Challenges in Dietetics Practice: The I + PSE Conceptual Framework for Action’. (I+PSE = Individual plus Policy, System, and Environmental)

Results

A non-sequential pathway guide to personal, population and planetary health for nutrition professionals was developed including several key guiding principles of Agency, Action, Ascension, Alignment, Alliance and Allyship, and Advocacy and Activism. Each guiding principle features descriptors and descriptions to enhance dietitian and nutrition professional

  • Agency (i.e. vision, self-belief, confidence, strength and responsibility),
  • Action (i.e. start, shift, translate, achieve and commit),
  • Ascension (i.e. build, overcome, manage, challenge and progress),
  • Alignment (i.e. leadership, transparency, diplomacy, values and systems),
  • Alliance and Allyship (i.e. support, collaborate, represent, community and citizenship) and
  • Advocacy and Activism (i.e. disrupt, co-design, transform, empower and urgency).

The framework and its descriptors support enhanced understanding and are modifiable and flexible in their application to guide the participation of dietitians and nutrition professionals in transformational change in personal, population and planetary health. This guide acknowledges that First Nations knowledge and customs are important to current and future work within this field.

Conclusions

Alongside the international body of work progressing in this field, this framework and visual guide will support dietitians and nutrition professionals to achieve urgent, transformational change in personal, population and planetary health.

Next-generation solutions to address adaptive challenges in dietetics practice: the I+PSE conceptual framework for action (2022)

Tagtow A, Herman D, Cunningham-Sabo L. Next-generation solutions to address adaptive challenges in dietetics practice: the I+PSE conceptual framework for action. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2022; 122(1): 15-24.

This article focuses on Applications for Professional Practice. The following is taken from the introduction to the article:

“It describes the Individual plus Policy, System, and Environmental (I+PSE) Conceptual Framework for Action (known as the “Framework”) as a roadmap for RDNs across all areas of practice (eg, research, education, clinical, community, and management) to better address adaptive challenges and to formulate multidimensional strategies for optimal impact. The Framework has cross-cutting practice implications for all areas of dietetics practice and can lead to the next generation of solutions to tackle adaptive challenges that better support nutrition and health.

The I+PSE Conceptual Framework for Action (see Figure) is a blueprint for RDNs and their partners to develop and implement multidimensional strategies using a systems orientation to achieve greater responsiveness to adaptive challenges and realize greater impacts.

  • Phase 1 –
    • Once an adaptive challenge is identified, RDNs can apply a determinants of health lens (Figure, phase 1) to closely examine nutrition and health problems and better identify why problems are worsening despite best efforts to solve them. The result of this focused assessment is a stronger diagnosis of the root causes that supports strategic decision-making in phase 2.
  • Phase 2 –
    • Is the formation of coordinated multidimensional strategies that produce a sustainable and synergistic effect.
  • Phase 3 –
    • Is the evaluation of outcomes and impacts of the suite of strategies and the degree to which change has occurred at the individual, practice, program, organizational, policy, and population levels. Encircling the Framework is systems thinking and reflection to support an iterative cycle of robust assessment, planning, implementation, and impact evaluation. The Framework is versatile and can be adapted to a wide range of nutrition issues, areas of dietetics practice, and diverse partnerships.”

Food environment framework in low- and middle-income countries – An integrative review (2023 Dec)

Neha Gupta, Vaishali Deshmukh, Sonika Verma, Seema Puri, Nikhil Tandon, Narendra K. Arora. Food environment framework in low- and middle-income countries – An integrative review. Global Food Security. Volume 39. 2023. 100716. ISSN 2211-9124. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2023.100716. (pay wall)

Relevant to: 

Researchers from multidisciplinary domains, policy makers, program managers

Question: 

The integrative review addressed the following objectives: (1) to develop a multi-level framework of Food Environments (FE) for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) based on McLeroy socio ecological theory and Penchansky and Thomas’s theory of access; (2) to identify the factors operating at different levels of the FE framework; and (3) to understand the relationship between factors operating at different levels of FE framework and dietary behaviors in LMICs.

Bottom line for nutrition practice: 

  • Food environment embedded in the food systems is a key consideration in sustainability. This study finds that the food environments in LMICs are in a dynamic state and have context specific mix of traditional systems and emerging modern supply chain-based markets.
  • The proposed socio-ecological model of the food environment in the context of LMICs should lay the foundation for an operational and analytical tool for surveillance, capturing dynamicity and its determinants.

Abstract: 

  • There are major gaps in our understanding of food environments (FE) in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) witnessing differential and complex social and economic transition. The present integrative review was conducted to develop a conceptual framework of FE for LMICs using socio-ecological and access theory. The FE framework has four layers: public policy, community/neighborhood (including organizational e.g., markets, schools), household, and individual. Availability, accessibility, and affordability with built-in socio-cultural and contextual factors were the major domains in every layer. The following additional domains emerged: global influences, marketing and regulation, nutrition programs, time-constrained family members, and food behavior. Wet and informal markets are important components of FE. The next step is determining the model’s resilience to accommodate and capture nuances across LMICs.

Details of results: 

  • The integrative review included evidence from 28 studies about food environment in low and middle-income countries in the last two decades.
  • The review used McLeroy’s socio-ecological model and Penchansky’s access theory as the basis for identifying the socio-economic and ecological factors operating at multiple levels in the LMIC food environment that influence dietary outcomes.
  • The factors were operating at (i) policy, (ii) community, (iii) household, and (iv) individual levels under the availability, affordability, and accessibility domains at each level are interwoven among themselves
  • The review identified that context and neighborhood characteristics characterise the food environment. In addition, the unorganized markets comprise of the major component of food environment
  • The evidence synthesis identified the following additional domains at multiple levels: Nutrition programs and global influences (Policy level); marketing and regulations (policy and neighborhood level); and time constraint and food behavior (household level).

Of additional interest: 

n/a

Conflict of interest/ Funding:  

The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

External relevant links:  

n/a

Corresponding author: 

Seema Puri, Department of Food and Nutrition, Institute of Home Economics, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India, dr.seemapuri@gmail.com

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.

Centering Equity in Sustainable Food Systems Education (2021)

Sustainable food systems education (SFSE) is rapidly advancing to meet the need for developing future professionals who are capable of effective decision-making regarding agriculture, food, nutrition, consumption, and waste in a complex world. Equity, particularly racial equity and its intersectional links with other inequities, should play a central role in efforts to advance SFSE given the harmful social and environmental externalities of food systems and ongoing oppression and systemic inequities such as lack of food access faced by racialized and/or marginalized populations. However, few institutional and intra-disciplinary resources exist on how to engage students in discussion about equity and related topics in SFSE.

This article presents perspectives based on multi-institutional collaborations to develop and apply pedagogical materials that center equity while building students’ skills in systems thinking, critical reflection, and affective engagement. Examples are provided of how to develop undergraduate and graduate sustainable food systems curricula that embrace complexity and recognize the affective layers, or underlying experiences of feelings and emotions, when engaging with topics of equity, justice, oppression, and privilege.

This work is part of the “Teaching Food Systems CoP” which was launched in 2016 by faculty members at Columbia University, in collaboration with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History, in parallel with the redesign of an undergraduate food systems course. The goals of the CoP are to convene academics and practitioners focused on SFSE, to: (1) support and grow a CoP for developing and implementing curricula in food systems courses; (2) share materials using systems thinking frameworks to teach about food systems; and (3) foster assessment tools on student learning in systems thinking.

Supplementary materials provide course outlines and valuable links to resources.

Front. Sustain. Food Syst., 28 October 2021
Sec. Social Movements, Institutions and Governance
Volume 5 – 2021 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fsufs.2021.737434

Leveraging Online Learning to Promote Systems Thinking for Sustainable Food Systems Training in Dietetics Education (2021)

Educating and training a multisectoral food systems workforce is a critical part of developing sustainable, resilient, and healthy food and water systems. This paper shares perspectives from a working group of educators, learners, and food systems subject matter experts that collaborated over the course of a year to develop, pilot test, and evaluate two interactive webinar series with a multi-site cohort of dietetics interns and graduate students.

The three-part format included a training webinar, a practice activity, and a synthesis webinar. All activities were conducted online between March and May, 2019. Materials from these sessions are available online including training webinar recordings, practice activity templates, and a discussion guide. Both series, while focusing on different topical areas within nutrition, introduced opportunities to practice systems thinking and consider connections between students’ core training in dietetics and the challenges of sustainable food systems.

The 20-person working group included stakeholders from the Future of Food Initiative, directors of dietetics education programs (henceforth: educators), and dietetics interns and graduate students (henceforth: learners) from four university sites implementing the curriculum in the United States. The programs collectively enrolled over 140 learners at any given time through in-person, distance, and hybrid programs. Because the series were offered as optional activities beyond the required curricula at each site, and because the four programs operated on independent timelines, the two series were not attended by identical groups of students.

In reflecting on the effectiveness of this format, we provide direct assessments of student learning from subject matter experts alongside indirect assessments from pre- and post-surveys fielded with learners. Learners who participated in an interactive webinar series demonstrated skills in several dimensions of systems thinking and gained confidence in food systems learning outcomes. Learners also shared valuable feedback on the opportunities and challenges of using online platforms for this experience.

As online learning opportunities become more common, it will become increasingly important for educators to prioritize strategies that effectively equip students with the higher-order thinking skills, such as systems thinking, needed to address the complexities of sustainable food systems. The interactive webinar series format described here provides an opportunity to leverage didactic webinars in combination with interactive experiences that enable learners to deepen their knowledge through practice with peers and subject matter experts. Though this format was piloted within dietetics education programs, many of the lessons learned are transferable to other food systems educational contexts.

Citation: Spiker M, Hege A, Giddens J, Cummings J, Steinmetz J, Tagtow A, Bergquist E, Burns L, Campbell C, Stadler D, Combs E, Prange N, Schwartz A, Brown K and Sauer K (2021) Leveraging Online Learning to Promote Systems Thinking for Sustainable Food Systems Training in Dietetics Education. Front. Nutr. 8:623336. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2021.623336

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.