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.

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

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

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

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:

*Correspondence: Patrick Webb,

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.

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

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

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

Sustainable healthy diets – Guiding principles (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

NDA SFS Position Papers

Several nutrition and dietetics associations are officially recognising the relevance of Sustainable Food Systems (SFS) and/or sustainable diets to nutrition and dietetics practice.

Please share additional papers so we can share further.

Feedback? Questions? Ideas? Contact the ICDA SFS Coordinator:
🇦🇺 AustraliaPosition Brief on Healthy and Sustainable dDets (DA, 2022 Mar)
Position Statement on Healthy and Sustainable Diets (DA, 2022 Mar)
Food Systems and Environmental Sustainability Role Statement (DA, 2021)
🇨🇦 CanadaThe Role of Dietitians in Sustainable Food Systems and Sustainable Diets (DC, 2020)
🇮🇹 ItalyPosition statement: The role of dietitians in food sustainability (ANDID, 2020)
🇺🇸 USACultivating SFS A framework for Action (AND, 2022)
SFS Standards of Professional Practice for RDs (AND, 2020)
Position on the Importance of Including Environmental Sustainability in Dietary Guidance (SNEB, 2019)
🇪🇺 EuropeSustainable Dietary Patterns (EFAD, 2021)
Farm to Fork strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system (EU, 2020)

The Coalition of Action on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems for Children and All (HDSFS)(website)

The Coalition of Action on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems for Children and All (HDSFS) was formed as an outcome of the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS). The WHO hosts/supports the coalition.

The HDSFS is a ‘Coalition of the Willing’ and strives to act as a mechanism for coordinated action on healthy diets from sustainable food systems to which countries can look to share experiences, champion policy actions and gain support, information and inspiration. The HDSFS brings together Member States, UN Agencies, Civil Society Organizations, Academic Institutions, and social movements to deliver on this call.

The vision of the Coalition is to align, mobilize and support collective action towards the shared vision of a world where all people are eating healthy diets from sustainable food systems. Realization of this vision would achieve a multitude of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms, promoting healthy lives and wellbeing for all by substantially reducing the health burden of non-communicable diseases and improving maternal and child health, promoting responsible consumption and production, and foster urgent action to combat climate change.

The Healthy Diets Coalition takes a broader approach which works across the food supply, food environments and the valuing of food. The workplan of the Coalition revolves around three key functions:

  1. Mobilise and coordinate existing expertise and stakeholders to align action across food systems for collective impact at the country-level.
  2. Facilitate peer-to-peer learning between countries.
  3. Manage special projects on integrating nutrition, health, and sustainability through food, determined by country priorities.

The intended outcome of the work of the Coalition is to accelerate a substantial increase of impactful actions by stakeholders across food systems, aligned for collective impact on healthy diets from sustainable food systems.

Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge (Tool)

You can encourage your Health Care institution to sign the Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge below, which is a framework by Health Care Without Harm US & Canada that outlines steps to improve the health of patients, communities, and the environment.

In addition to encouraging your Health Care systems to sign, implement, and report on this pledge, you could adapt this pledge to other situations – schools, churches, or other groups or institutions you are working with to signal to the marketplace about their interest in local, nutritious, sustainable food. Share back with us if you do this, and we will encourage others to sign!

The pledge

As a responsible provider of health care services, we are committed to the health of our patients, our staff and the local and global community. We are aware that food production and distribution methods can have adverse impacts on public environmental health. As a result, we recognize that for the consumers who eat it, the workers who produce it and the ecosystems that sustain us, healthy food must be defined not only by nutritional quality, but equally by a food system that is economically viable, environmentally sustainable, and supportive of human dignity and justice. We are committed to the goal of providing local, nutritious and sustainable food. This Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge is a framework that outlines steps to be taken by the health care industry to improve the health of patients, communities and the environment.

Specifically, we are committed to the following healthy food in health care measures for our institution.

We pledge to:

  • Work with local farmers, community-based organizations and food suppliers to increase the availability of locally-sourced food.
  • Encourage our vendors and/or food-management companies to supply us with food that is, among other attributes, produced without synthetic pesticides and hormones or antibiotics given to animals in the absence of diagnosed disease and which supports farmer health and welfare, and ecologically protective and restorative agriculture.
  • Increase our offering of fruit and vegetables, nutritionally-dense and minimally processed, unrefined foods and reduce unhealthy (trans and saturated) fats and sweetened foods.
  • Implement a stepwise program to identify and adopt sustainable food procurement. Begin where fewer barriers exist and immediate steps can be taken. For example, the adoption of rBGH free milk, fair trade coffee, or the introduction of organic fresh produce in the cafeteria.
  • Communicate to our Group Purchasing Organizations our interest in foods that are identified as local and/or third-party certified.
  • Educate and communicate within our system and to our patients and community about our nutritious, socially just and ecological sustainable food healthy food practices and procedures.
  • Minimize or beneficially reuse food waste and support the use of food packaging and products which are ecologically protective.
  • Develop a program to promote and source from producers and processors which uphold the dignity of family, farmers, workers and their communities and support sustainable and humane agriculture systems.
  • Report annually on the implementation of this pledge. 

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!