Every year, unhealthy diets cause eleven million deaths and an additional 420,000 people die from unhealthy foods. In addition, inadequate nutrition leads to chronic diseases that cause suffering and place a huge burden on the budgets of all countries.
To address this reality, five specialized UN agencies – the World Health Organization (WHO), the Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Program (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Environment Program (UNEP), launched this Friday a coalition that calls for action to offer healthy and affordable diets for all from sustainable food systems.
“The Coalition will support countries to achieve their goals for human health and environmental sustainability, thus achieving a true victory for people, climate and nature,” said the WFP.
Members of the Healthy Diets Action Coalition noted that some 3 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet and poor diet is linked to six of the top ten risk factors for the global burden of disease.
On the other hand, malnutrition constitutes a violation of the human right to food and continues to generate social and health inequalities.
The unsustainable practices that define the world’s food systems today are also driving deforestation, biodiversity loss, ocean depletion, the emergence of zoonotic diseases and antimicrobial resistance.
Sick food systems
The UN agencies affirmed that the current food systems are making the population sick, for which they urged to transform them to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The agencies recalled that health, nutrition and environmental sustainability must be basic pillars of the transformation of food systems.
Healthy diets in a sustainable food system are regimens of food intake that promote health and prevent disease. But for their consumption to become widespread, healthy foods must be available, affordable, accessible and attractive to all.
This food also needs to be produced and distributed using methods that ensure decent work and protect the planet, soil, water and biodiversity.
The Coalition’s vision is to mobilize and support collective action towards the goal of all people consuming healthy diets from sustainable food systems.
To this end, the agencies promoting the initiative underline the urgency of coherent and imminent actions in policies, practices, data availability and resource allocation.
The Coalition’s work plan consists of three key points:
*Mobilize and coordinate knowledge for orchestrated action on food systems for positive impact at the country level
*Facilitate learning between countries
*Manage special projects, according to the priorities of each country, to integrate the spheres of nutrition, health and sustainability through food
*Carrying out this plan would make it possible to achieve several goals of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms, promoting healthy lives and well-being for all, reducing disease noncommunicable diseases, improve maternal and child health, promote responsible consumption and production, and adopt urgent measures to combat climate change.
What is expected
The expected result of the Coalition’s work is an increase in actions to achieve a collective impact on healthy diets produced by sustainable food systems.
The Coalition is already making progress towards implementing its work plan and realizing its vision.
The Coalition was formed after the UN Summit on Food Systems, held in 2021 and brings together Member States, UN agencies, civil society organizations, academic institutions and social movements.