Solution Cluster 1.2.1a
The Global Coalition for Children’s Diets
The Solution: In order to transform food systems and make them better equipped, responsive and accountable for improving children’s diets, UNICEF, WHO, and their partners are forming the Global Coalition for Children’s Diets.
The vision of the Global Coalition for Children’s Diets is: A world where all children realise their right to nutrition. This vision is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child – the world’s most widely ratified human rights treaty – which recognises the right of every child to adequate nutrition.
The goal of the Global Coalition for Children’s Diets is: To improve the quality of children’s foods, food environments, and food practices to support optimal nutrition for all children. This goal aims to contribute to the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to end poverty and hunger, ensure children’s access to nutritious diets, and end child malnutrition in all its forms.
The Need: Globally, millions of children do not benefit from diets that support healthy growth and development. Poor diets start in infancy and early childhood and continue during middle childhood and adolescence1. Food systems bear a critical responsibility for the nutritional quality, safety, affordability, and sustainability of children’s diets. However, the specific nutrition rights and dietary needs of children have not been sufficiently considered in the food systems transformation agenda. Food systems actions to improve children’s diets have been clearly identified, but implementation has been fragmented and stakeholders have failed to take a joined-up approach2. As a result, today’s food systems are driving pervasive child malnutrition – pervasive stunting and wasting, widespread micronutrient deficiencies, and rising rates of overweight and obesity – due to the way in which foods are produced, processed, packaged, marketed, made available, and procured. The Global Coalition for Children’s Diets is needed to ensure that public- and private-sector actors take full responsibility for their unique roles in transforming global and local food systems to respond to the nutrition rights and needs of children. Led by UNICEF and WHO, the Coalition will be a ‘one-stop shop’ for all stakeholders with a mandate to improve the quality of children’s diets. It will count on the leadership of selected national governments from low-, middle-, and high-income countries, development partners, civil society organisations, and academic and research institutions working to prevent all forms of malnutrition, bringing together existing issue-specific alliances and collectives3.
About this Solution Cluster
The vision and goal of the Coalition are driven by two guiding principles for sustainable impact:
- Prevention first, always. The vision of the Global Coalition for Children’s Diets is universal, applying equally to all children, everywhere. This vision is implemented through context-specific actions that share a universal premise across regions and countries: prevention comes first, in all contexts.
- Systems first, everywhere. The vision of the Global Coalition for Children’s Diets calls for a systems approach to improving nutrition outcomes for children. The Coalition will explicitly target the role of the food system, given its centrality in providing nutritious, safe, affordable, and sustainable diets for children. At the same time, the Coalition will advocate for better synergy between the food system and other supportive systems – such as health, education, and social protection systems – to ensure essential nutrition services and positive nutrition practices.
The goal of the Global Coalition for Children’s Diets is driven by the Innocenti Framework on Food Systems for Children4, which identifies three key determinants of children’s diets: the quality of children’s foods, food environments, and food practices. Therefore, the Global Coalition for Children’s Diets will focus on three impact areas:
- Improving the quality of children’s foods: Protecting, promoting, and supporting age-appropriate, nutrient-rich and safe foods – including breastmilk and complementary foods for children in the first two years of life – with safe drinking water and household food security for all children.
- Improving the quality of children’s food environments: Protecting, promoting, and supporting food environments that make healthy diets available, affordable, and appealing in the context of children’s lives – where children eat, learn, and meet – guiding children towards healthier diets.
- Improving the quality of children’s food practices: Protecting, promoting, and supporting age-appropriate food and feeding practices – including complementary foods and feeding in early childhood – with adequate food preparation, food choices, food consumption, and food hygiene.
UNICEF and WHO will be the conveners of the Global Coalition for Children’s Diets. We believe that children’s right to nutrition must be at the heart of food systems transformation. The Global Coalition for Children’s Diets will focus on five strategic actions:
- Strategic action 1: Voice and advocacy. The Coalition will help shape more coherent global and national narratives for the transformation of food systems in favour of nutritious, safe, affordable, and sustainable diets for all children. Through global and national advocacy efforts – which will involve the voices of children and young people – the Coalition will ensure a collective authoritative voice that advocates for food systems-based actions to improve the quality of children’s foods, food environments, and food practices5.
- Strategic action 2: Country Compacts. The Coalition will contribute to strengthening the convergence of countries aiming to improve the quality of children’s diets through food systems actions. Country compacts could be established around the three impact areas of the Coalition. The Coalition will promote country-to-country learning and innovation by facilitating inter-country support and knowledge exchange among stakeholders in member states through a peer learning approach. The Coalition will also support governments and partners in designing programmes based on a systematic analysis of the determinants and drivers of young children’s diets6.
- Strategic action 3: Data and knowledge. The Coalition will contribute to strengthening measurement approaches and the availability of data, analyses, and evidence on the quality of children’s diets through a global database on children’s diets – including new indicators for diet quality in children. The Global Database will aggregate data on children’s diets across all stages of childhood by building and aligning it with existing databases7.
- Strategic action 4: Partnerships and resources. The Coalition will work closely with national governments, civil society organisations, training and research institutions, bilateral and multilateral partners, youth and consumer associations, and private-sector actors to develop a common narrative and advocacy strategy; mobilise financial and human resources and public- and private-sector assets; and support policy and strategic actions aiming to transform food systems to improve the quality of children’s foods, food environments, and food practices.
- Strategic action 5: Monitoring and accountability. The Coalition will leverage the expertise and resources of its members to develop a comprehensive set of standard indicators and a monitoring mechanism to track the progress on improving the quality of children’s foods, food environments, and food practices through food systems-based strategic actions.
1 UNICEF (2019). The State of the World’s Children 2019. Children, food and nutrition: Growing well in a changing world. https://www.unicef.org/sites/default/files/2019-12/SOWC-2019.pdf
2 Priority food systems actions to improve the quality of children’s diets are outlined in the UNICEF Nutrition Strategy 2020 – 2030 https://www.unicef.org/reports/nutrition-strategy-2020-2030
3 UNICEF is committed to engaging champion countries and entities, including Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, the USA, the EU, Mexico, Chile, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Brazil, as well as selected CSOs including Alive and Thrive, GAIN, EAT, Save the Children, Helen Keller International, the Micronutrient Forum, the NCD Alliance and the World Obesity Federation.
4 UNICEF (2018). Food systems for children and adolescents. https://www.unicef.org/media/94086/file/Food-systems-brochure.pdf
5 UNICEF is organizing interactive dialogues with children in 18 countries and a global survey of young people’s views on food systems
6 To facilitate the roll-out of a systematic systems approach to improving young children’s diets, UNICEF has developed an action framework specifically focused on the diets of young children: https://www.unicef.org/documents/improving-young-childrens-diets-during-complementary-feeding-period-unicef-programming
7Data on frequency, diversity and adequacy; the determinants and drivers of children’s food consumption including affordability, convenience and aspiration; and the quality of children’s food environments at home, in schools and beyond.