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The Coalition of Action for Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems for Children & All

The shared vision of the Coalition is a world where all people are eating healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The aim is that healthy diets are available, affordable, and accessible to all, especially the most vulnerable to malnutrition and those living in vulnerable circumstances. The measurable goal is to halve the number of people who cannot afford a healthy diet while ensuring food is produced sustainably. All stakeholders have a role to play. Many implement policies and practices that directly and indirectly influence the availability, accessibility, affordability and appeal of healthy diets, and how they are produced. Yet people, policies (including regulations, laws, standards), programmes, and practices typically focus on sector specific goals, meaning fragmentation (‘siloed working’) is the norm in efforts to deliver healthy diets rather than the coordination and co-benefits of multi-duty action on diets for both nutrition and environmental sustainability goals.

A broad coalition inclusive of multiple actions is thus vital to align and strengthen actions across sectors and the different elements of food systems at all levels to achieve collective impact on healthy diets from sustainable food systems.

Science based evidence to prioritize this coalition

A key priority echoed by many Member States and stakeholder groups involved in the UNFSS was the urgent, foundational need for action to deliver healthy diets from sustainable food systems for all. Healthy diets can be defined as “health-promoting and disease-preventing; diets which provide adequacy without excess of nutrients and health-promoting substances from nutritious foods, while avoiding the consumption of health-harming substances” (UNFSS definition of a healthy diet). A healthy diet from a sustainable food system is sufficient, safe, diverse and proportionate, and produced and distributed using methods that ensure decent work, and that sustain the planet, soil, water, and biodiversity. Actions to transform food systems to achieve this vision have huge potential to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by addressing:

  • Malnutrition in all its forms: Malnutrition is responsible for more disability-adjusted life years lost (20%) than any other contributor (Lancet, 2019). Poor diet contributes to 6 of the top 10 risk factors for the global burden of disease and for 5 of the 10 in nearly all countries (Lancet 2020). Yet 3 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet (SOFI 2021).
  • Unsafe food: Unsafe food causes over 6 million illnesses and kills 420,000 each year, with children particularly vulnerable. Low- and middle-income countries are estimated to experience a productivity loss of some US$110 billion per year as a result of unsafe food (World Bank, 2019).
  • Environmental impact of food production: Food systems account for 80% of freshwater consumption, contribute 20-30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and are responsible for 70% of terrestrial biodiversity loss and 80% of global deforestation (IPCC, 2020; WWF 2020; IPBES, 2019).

Actions across food systems are needed to i) increase the diversity of safe, nutritious foods in the appropriate amounts in people’s diets for good nutrition and health as appropriate for local cultures and contexts and at all stages of the life course, ii) produce food through decent work using methods that support climate, soil, water and biodiversity, and iii) curb excess consumption of animal-source food among high-consuming groups and limit consumption of foods and drinks high in unhealthy fats, sugars and/or salt, including highly processed foods.

Mechanisms of implementation

The Coalition will strive to act as a global ‘home’ for coordinated action on healthy diets from sustainable food systems to which countries can look for support, information and inspiration, maintaining and gaining momentum from multiple stakeholders on the issue. The intended outcome of the work of the Coalition is to accelerate a substantial increase of impactful actions by stakeholders across food systems, aligned for collective impact on healthy diets from sustainable food systems.

To achieve this, the Coalition will inspire, align, mobilize, and support impactful action towards the shared vision at the country and global levels. It will take a broad view of where action can be taken across:

  • The food supply. Actions that increase the supply of foods needed to support healthy diets from sustainable food systems.
  • Food environments. Actions to support healthy diets from sustainable food systems through enhancing the institutional, physical, price, and informational environments where people procure their food, and the policies that shape them.
  • Valuing food. Actions to motivate, empower and enable everyone, everywhere to have the agency to acquire, prepare and eat healthy diets produced using environmentally sustainable practices.

The Coalition will build on and link to the existing activities and plans of Members, as well as UN initiatives, strategies and approaches including the One Health approach, UN Decade of Action on Nutrition, the Global Coalition for Children’s Diets, and the CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition. It will function as a platform to mobilize and coordinate existing expertise and stakeholders to align action across food systems for collective impact at the country level; to facilitate peer-to-peer learning; to foster a systems approach towards its vision within Member States’ food systems transformation pathways; and to advance special projects on integrating nutrition, health and environmental sustainability through food. It will ‘learn by doing’ and adapt its functions accordingly. In applying this approach, the Coalition will work as a ‘Coalition of the Willing’ and seek to work with volunteer countries to deliver tangible outputs.

Next Steps

The Coalition is in a six-month transition period as its governance, processes, membership, commitments and workplan are undergoing further development and refinement. This process is guided by the transition secretariat which is composed of UN agencies, CSOs and Academic partners in collaboration with the growing group of frontrunner countries.

Strategic partners

Frontrunner Countries: As of December 20th 2021 front runner member countries of the Coalition include Brazil, Chile, Denmark, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Finland, Ghana, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.

UN Agencies, Funds, Programmes & Coordination Bodies: FAO, UNEP, UNICEF, WFP, WHO and UN Nutrition

CSOs/NGOs and movements: EAT, GAIN, WWF, CARE, Club of Rome, Consumers International and the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement

Academic Institutions: City- University of London and IFPRI

Future Directions: The Coalition is developing Principles of Engagement to guide its interaction with additional interested stakeholders in 2022, ensuring the prevention of conflicts of interest and alignment behind the Coalition’s shared vision.

Monitoring and Evaluation

The accountability framework will be co-created with the Coalition members and aligned with the UNFSS accountability framework. Possible indicators could include:

  • The number of people able to afford a healthy diet, as measured by the annual FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report.
  • The proportion of young children fed a minimum diverse diet as measured by the annual UNICEF Global Database on Infant and Young Child Feeding.
  • Nutrition related SDG targets, specifically SDG 2.2, 2.5, 3.1, 3.2 and 3.4. as well as Sustainable Consumption and Production targets under SDG 12 (12.2, 12.8, 12.6 and others).
  • The World Health Assembly Nutrition and NCD Targets 2025
  • Member States progress in creating enabling policy environments for promoting healthy diets and nutrition, as monitored by WHO within the Global Database on the Implementation of Nutrition Action and Global Nutrition Policy Review (including indicators related to policy action on fruits and vegetables, sugar, sodium, trans-fatty acids, marketing regulation and school nutrition activities).

Express your interest in joining this coalition

Focal point contacts

To express interest in joining the Coalition, or to learn more, please reach out to: