Food systems

The Food Systems program seeks to build healthy, equitable, and sustainable food systems for all. Our society’s approach to cultivating, distributing, and consuming food has profound impacts on our health, social interactions, and the environment. These dimensions are intricately linked and interdependent, with the potential to either cultivate a thriving planet or accelerate environmental degradation. Food systems also shape our culture and values, offering an opportunity to revitalize our connection to traditional cultures and reshape the distribution of wealth within food chains. This transformation can help preserve and strengthen diverse local food patterns.

Discover more about the grants offered by the program.

The program lends support to initiatives that align with three priority areas:

SYSTEMIC APPROACHES TO FOOD

A recent global report emphatically highlights the coexistence and interplay of three pandemics – obesity, malnutrition, and climate change. Collectively, these constitute a global syndemic impacting individuals worldwide. Addressing social issues of such magnitude and complexity demands solutions acknowledging their multidimensional nature. This calls for systemic, transdisciplinary, and inclusive visions and approaches.

The program champions initiatives and organizations that cultivate, broaden, and deepen the systemic understanding of food. This encompasses its economic, political, health, environmental, social, and racial dimensions, ultimately informing public policies and institutional structures. These endeavors strive to ensure the human right to adequate food and nurture equitable, healthy, and sustainable food systems. Research, communication, and action prioritizing the political, economic, racial, and social determinants impacting food systems receive paramount attention. Crucial issues tackled include: the escalating hunger crisis, the intersection of gender and race in food matters, conflicts of interest and corporate monopolies in the food sector, accountability for the true, socio-economic and environmental cost of food production and its externalities and enhancing tax and regulatory regimes in the food sector.

FOOD AND HEALTH

Millions of avoidable deaths worldwide are linked to chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) associated with unhealthy dietary habits. These include cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer, which exert a significant strain on health systems and economies. Malnutrition, in its various forms such as obesity, undernutrition, and hunger, is also the leading cause of poor health worldwide. This contradicts the historical improvements in health indicators like life expectancy, maternal and infant mortality, and deaths from infectious diseases. Unhealthy diets are influenced by a range of cultural, environmental, and political factors. The increase in calorie intake from ultra-processed products, along with the consumption of food contaminated by agrochemicals is a growing concern. Scientific research has linked nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and other agrochemical additives to a range of health problems.

The program empowers initiatives and organizations dedicated to raising awareness of food’s pivotal role in population health and influencing policy and regulatory frameworks to ensure food environments that nurture healthy and adequate nutrition for all. The program prioritizes actions that prepare and disseminate research, communicate evidence, and advocate for public policies to address food’s critical role in the prevalence of malnutrition, obesity, and chronic NCDs. This includes investigating the impacts of ultra-processed food consumption, pesticide use proliferation and advocacy for public policies that encourage, support and protect adequate and healthy food.

TRANSITION TO SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS

Transforming the dominant food systems requires a fundamental shift in production methods, processing structures, distribution channels, and marketing practices. This involves prioritizing food chains that value biodiversity, emphasize short-circuit food production and consumption, ensure fair labor relations and strengthen local diets. By centralizing the role of smallholder famers, traditional peoples and communities, these strategies tackle the climate crisis and malnutrition simultaneously and promote healthy, fair, and sustainable food systems.

The program supports initiatives and organizations spearheading the transformation of food production, processing, distribution, marketing, and consumption methods to advocate for agroecology and healthy, fair and sustainable food systems. Priority is placed on campaigns, coordination, mobilization and advocacy aimed at developing methodologies and scalable solutions for transitioning to sustainable production models. Advocacy for policies that provide small-scale farmers, traditional peoples and communities access to credit, markets, technical assistance and rural outreach are also prioritized. Strengthening local diets and promoting short production and consumption circuits are crucial focus areas for fostering sustainable food systems. Research into innovation and new technologies in food production and marketing is also essential for a sustainable future. This research could focus on such aspects as the environmental, social and human health effects of food systems.