Food systems and the natural resource base are under increasing pressure to provide sufficient, safe, nutritious, and affordable food for all. In recent decades, food systems have undergone major transformations. Food production has become more capital intensive and supply chains have grown longer as basic ingredients undergo multiple transformations on their way to becoming final food products. At the same time, persistent chronic undernutrition (stunting) and micronutrient deficiencies (“hidden hunger”) in early childhood exist alongside rising rates of overweight and obesity, affecting the same poor population segments with multiple burdens. Especially in low- and middle-income countries in Africa and South Asia, where millions of people remain chronically undernourished, a rapidly growing share suffers from overweight, obesity, and diet-related noncommunicable diseases. At the root of these multiple burdens are limited access to and consumption of healthy diets among the poor. Diets are changing quickly, often driven by the rapid pace of urbanization in many developing countries. As the food system transformation progresses, demand for processed foods and convenience purchases at supermarkets, fast-food restaurants, and informal street foods becomes increasingly important. Yet, while consumption of healthier foods and nutrients has been growing during the past two decades, especially in high- and middle-income countries, consumption of less healthy foods and nutrients, such as processed meats and trans fats, is rising even faster, particularly in low-income countries. This flagship focuses on understanding how food systems can contribute to healthier diets.
The overarching goal of the flagship is to understand how changes in food systems can lead to healthier diets, and to identify and test entry points for interventions to make those changes. We plan to focus on measuring changes in diet quality among young women, their children, and vulnerable populations, who are most at risk for malnutrition. The flagship will contribute to development outcomes in three ways:
1. by providing evidence on drivers of and constraints to diet changes among target populations and food system performance to inform policy discussions and multi-stakeholder dialogues in target countries (and ultimately to facilitate public-private partnerships);
2. by improving the performance of nutrient-rich agri-food value chains and enhancing food system innovations for identifying options for upscaling to large segments of target populations, including women and other vulnerable groups; and
3. by helping to support agri-food system CRPs (AFS-CRPs) through communities of practice (CoP) that can support researchers in using food-system pathways and strategies for strengthening and leveraging agriculture, nutrition, and health linkages in CGIAR research.