FAO in North America – Creating a Common Vision for More Sustainable Food Systems

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Originally posted December 10, 2019, at http://www.fao.org

Washington, DC – FAO North America, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN USA) and Duke University’s World Food Policy Center organized the first Food System Dialogue in Washington, DC. The Food Systems Dialogues are a global series of facilitated round-table discussions that encourage collective action for transforming food systems.

Attracting over 100 practitioners, the event aimed to connect different food system actors in Washington, DC, and to build momentum for the 2021 World Summit on Food Systems.

The event featured welcoming remarks from Kelly Brownell, Director of Duke University’s World Food Policy Center, and Thomas Pesek, Senior Liaison Officer at FAO North America, and was moderated by Jonathan Tench, Director of GAIN USA.

“Despite an increase in global food production, malnutrition in all its forms is now the number one factor contributing to the global burden of disease and reduced life expectancy. Two billion people are now classified as overweight, while over 820 million people go hungry,” said Pesek.

To frame the dialogue, Jessica Fanzo, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Food Policy and Ethics at John Hopkins University, presented key food system challenges in a presentation entitled ‘Eating our way through the Anthropocene.’

Patrizia Fracassi, Senior Nutrition and Food Systems at FAO explained, “the world is off-track to meet all global nutrition targets. Over 2 billion people do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food. We are looking at food systems that enable healthy diets that are also environmentally, economically and socio-culturally sustainable.”

With the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition, the 2020 Nutrition for Growth Summit, and the 2021 World Summit on Food Systems, Fracassi stated that “now is the time – perhaps the only one – to translate this unprecedented global high-level political momentum into actions to transform how we do things not just for today, but also the future.”

The framing remarks were followed by breakout sessions, where participants had the chance to partake in two out of seven thematic table discussions.

  • FAO North America facilitated a table on food systems thinking, displaying existing food system frameworks and how systems thinking allows us to analyse interdependencies, as well as synergies and trade-offs across the three dimensions of sustainability.
  • The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition facilitated a table on global child obesity reduction targets, which focused on dietary guidelines for healthy diets, school feeding, and changing the food environment that children are exposed to.
  • HarvestPlus and GAIN co-hosted a table on tackling micronutrient deficiencies with a food system approach, highlighting dietary diversity as a long term strategy, which can be complemented with biofortification and large-scale food fortification.
  • The DC Office of Planning hosted the discussion on city food systems, highlighting the recently agreed-upon 2020 DC Food Policy Priorities, which include food access and equity, entrepreneurship and food jobs, nutrition and food system education, urban agriculture, and sustainable supply chains.
  • Care International hosted a table discussion on gender, nutrition, and food systems, emphasizing the centrality of equal access to resources, and urging to put a gender lens to the planning, budget and implementation of projects and programs.
  • Duke University’s World Food Policy Center and the Bread for the World Institute co-hosted a discussion on race, inequality & food systems, noting that innovative lending tools and practices are required to build ownership to solutions in communities that have been structurally disinvested in.
  • The National Family Farm Coalition discussed key challenges for family farmers in the current food system, and emphasized proposals for supply management to avoid low prices for family farmers, the need to put farmers in the driver seat to adapt to climate change, as well as rewarding farmers for climate-resilient practices.

A report about the dialogue, focusing on concrete proposals and recommendations, will be available on the official Food Systems Dialogue website shortly.

Read more

Watch a recap of the event

Twitter thread 

High Level Panel of Experts (2017) Report on Nutrition and Food Systems

FAO (2018) Sustainable food systems Concept and framework

Toolkit for Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture and Food Systems

Policy Guidance Series – strengthening sector policies for better food security and nutrition results

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