“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.

This is one of the outcomes of the UN Food Systems Summit held in September 2021, as part of the Decade of Action to achieve 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.

Illness and inequalities

The 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 eating unsafe foods.

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

“The burden of malnutrition rrepresents a violation of the human right to food and continues to deepen health and social inequalities“, said the WHO.

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

A woman buys fresh vegetables from an organic farm shop in Rome, Italy.

© FAO / Victor Sokolowicz

A woman buys fresh vegetables from an organic farm shop in Rome, Italy.

More than food

For the WHO, “healthy diets from sustainable food systems” goes beyond affordable access to foods that promote health and prevent disease.

It also means that food is produced and distributed in a way that ensures decent work and preserves the planet, soil, water and biodiversity.

The WHO highlighted the broader impacts this would have on achieving the SDGs, such as ending hunger and malnutrition, promoting healthy lives and well-being, improving health maternal and child health, the promotion of responsible consumption and production and the promotion of urgent actions 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 policy actions and gain support, information and inspiration.

As urgent action is needed in policy, practice, data availability and resource allocation, the work of the Coalition will focus on three main areas: mobilizing stakeholders to align action on food systems; facilitate peer-to-peer learning across countries and manage special projects on integrating nutrition, health and sustainability through food.

So far, 16 nations and the European Commission are ‘frontrunner countries’ in the 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 Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP).

Other members of civil society and academia include the World Wide Fund for Nature, 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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