‘Coalition of the willing’ to ensure healthy diets from sustainable food systems — Global Issues

The Action Coalition for Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems for All (HDSFS) brings together governments, UN agencies, civil society organizations, academic institutions and social movements.

It is one of the outcomes of the UN Food Systems Summit, held in September 2021, as part of the Decade of Action towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

The Summit called for progress towards achieving the SDGs by examining how food systems are linked to global challenges such as malnutrition, climate change and poverty.

disease and inequality

HDSFS comes at a crucial time, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), one of its members, because “our food systems are making us sick”.

Every year, Unhealthy diets cause 11 million deathswhile another 420,000 people die from consuming unsafe food.

Unhealthy diets are also linked to six of the top 10 risk factors for the global burden of disease, yet an estimated three billion people worldwide cannot afford healthy food.

“THE malnutrition burden rrepresents a violation of the human right to food and continues to drive social and health inequalities” said the WHO.

The picture worsens, as the UN agency said that the unsustainable practices that define food systems today are also driving deforestation, loss of biodiversity, ocean depletion, antimicrobial resistance and the emergence of zoonotic diseases.

A woman buys fresh vegetables at an organic farming store in Rome, Italy.

© FAO / Victor Sokolowicz

A woman buys fresh vegetables at an organic farming store in Rome, Italy.

more than food

For the WHO, “healthy diets from sustainable food systems” go beyond having access to food that promotes health and prevents disease.

It also means having food produced and distributed in a way that guarantees decent work and helps sustain the planet, soil, water and biodiversity.

The WHO pointed to the broader impacts this would have on achieving the SDGs, such as ending hunger and malnutrition, promoting healthy lives and well-being, improving maternal and child health, encouraging responsible consumption and production​ ​and advance urgent action to combat climate change.

coordinated action

The HDSFS will function as a “coalition of the willing”, serving as a platform for coordinated action on healthy diets from sustainable food systems through which countries can share experiences, advocate for policy action and gain support, information and inspiration.

As urgent action is needed on policies, practices, data availability and resource allocation, the Coalition’s work will focus on three main areas: mobilizing stakeholders to align action across food systems; facilitating cross-country learning among peers and managing special projects on the integration of nutrition, health and sustainability through food.

So far, 16 nations and the European Commission are “pioneer countries” in HDSFS.

The “core group members” of the Coalition include the WHO and four other UN agencies: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the United Nations for Children (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP).

Other members of civil society and academia include the World Wildlife Fund, the humanitarian organization CARE, the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement and the Center for Food Policy at City, University of London.

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