As our world becomes increasingly interconnected, we each have a role to play in ensuring that food is accessible for all – while also being good for us and the planet. As dietitians and healthcare professionals, we are aware of how the foods we choose to eat not only impact our health, but also the larger food system. That’s why we’re excited to share more about important conversations taking place on the global level. In September 2021, the UN Secretary-General convened the first-ever United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) to bring widespread attention to topics such as sustainability, food systems, and global health.
Dietitians play an integral role in promoting sustainability because they are highly skilled in translating complex science to patients and harness interpersonal skills to change patient behavior. Plus, dietitians understand the importance of both healthy diets and promoting a sustainable food system.
As such, dietitians recommend certain foods to patients to promote good nutrition and other health goals. Eggs and beans have long been regarded as highly nutritious foods – both are a source of protein and key nutrients. In addition to being nutritious foods to include in the diet, the UNFSS formally recognized eggs and beans as “star ingredients” as part of World Food Day 2021. The UNFSS video, When Is An Egg Not Just An Egg?, highlights the key role that eggs play in diets around the world; they’re accessible, nutritious, and full of potential for fueling our bodies. The video The Magic of Beans highlighted beans as a versatile, affordable, and nutritious food for people around the world. These videos help promote the importance of food systems conversations and show that eggs and beans are fuel for our future.
So, what do you mean by food systems?
Food systems refer to the collective activities involved in the production, processing, transportation, consumption, and disposal of food. They encompass the physical health of people, as well as healthy environments, economies, and cultures. Registered dietitians play a critical role in food systems, helping patients build nutritious dietary patterns while considering the affordability, accessibility, and cultural context of food choices.
And, what happened at the UNFSS and why is it important?
UNFSS was convened as part of the Decade of Action on Nutrition to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs). Promoted as a “people’s summit,” UNFSS assembled key actors across global food systems, with over 51,000 attendees from 193 countries. It included five Action Tracks to draw on the expertise of different stakeholders, two of which included nutrition and sustainable consumption:
- Action Track 1 concentrated on ensuring access to safe and nutritious food for all, with the goal of ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms. This Action Track launched conversations on food safety, access to school meals, workforce nutrition, and more.
- Action Track 2 covered sustainable consumption patterns, looking to build consumer demand for sustainably produced food, strengthen local value chains, improve nutrition, and promote the reuse and recycling of food resources. This Action Track examined the role of food environments, demand creation, and food loss and waste.
UNFSS was the first major global gathering around food systems. It resulted in coalition-building among stakeholders, national commitments from governments, and cross-cutting priorities for global nutrition organizations. Undoubtedly, the high-level conversations launched at UNFSS will drive nutrition commitments and food policy for decades to come.
Interested in learning how you can take action on food systems? Follow UNFSS on Twitter or Instagram for announcements of new coalitions, podcasts on global food systems, as well as opportunities for health professionals and other stakeholders to get involved.