How can we reshape food access and consumption patterns to ensure nutritional needs while fostering healthy and sustainable diets?

by Christina Tirado

Unsustainable development, environmental degradation and climate change, volatile markets and governance issues have led to resource scarcity, poverty and food and nutrition insecurity in many regions.

While almost 1 billion people suffer from under-nutrition, more than a billion adults worldwide were overweight in 2010, and 500 million adults are clinically obese. Obesity and many chronic diseases are related to diets with high saturated fats and to low fruit and vegetable intake such as CVD , diabetes and cancer were the cause of 63% of the global deaths (35 million deaths), 80% of which were in low and middle-income countries. This is called the double-burden of malnutrition which affects mainly low and medium income countries. Poverty, inequities and access issues are at the heart of this dichotomous challenge.

Strategies that aim to bring co-benefits to health and the environment through sustainable food production and consumption, and food waste reduction can generate greater overall benefits for food and nutrition security, health, climate and environment protection.  Sustainable diets are promoted as strategies to direct consumers choices towards more sustainable and healthy food patterns.

Sustainable diets are healthy (i.e. rich in fruits, vegetables and legumes and low in saturated fats from animal origin), environmentally sustainable and socially equitable. Sustainable diets also address under-nutrition, ecosystems degradation, and biodiversity loss. This represents a swift shift towards a health-promoting agriculture and food policies.

Health promoting agriculture and food policies provide incentives to the production of fruits, vegetables and legumes which have a positive impact on health while reducing GHG emissions.  Producing and consuming fewer animal-based foods helps to lower the intake of saturated fats associated with heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity while reducing environmental impact.  In this context, we need an inclusive agriculture that is accessible to people, resilient and provides nutritious, safe and healthy food while protecting and conserving natural resources, ecosystems and their functions. Decreasing under-nutrition while promoting healthy and sustainable food production systems and consumption patterns will require strong transparent intersectoral and multistakeholders partnerships worldwide.

The Center of Public Health and Climate Change at PHI has co-organized with WFP, IFOAM and Biovision a learning event on “Reshaping food access and consumption patterns to ensure nutritional needs while fostering healthy and sustainable eating habits worldwide” at the Agriculture and Rural Development Day in Rio+20 See, The Center was also addressing  the agriculture R&D needs for nutrition and health you can see us at

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