Maximizing Transformative Opportunities for Healthy Diets in Sustainable Urban Agrifood Systems

Maximizing Transformative Opportunities for Healthy Diets in Sustainable Urban Agrifood Systems

On October 25, 2023, from 1.30 to 2.45 PM (CET), FAO will host the event "Our Seat at the Table: Maximizing Transformative Opportunities across the rural-urban Continuum to deliver healthy diets from sustainable agrifood systems" during the 51st Committee on World Food Security. Co-organized by a consortium of influential partners*, this hybrid event promises to be a crucial step towards addressing malnutrition in all its forms and promoting agrifood systems transformation.

Accelerated, Transformative Action is paramount to delivering healthy diets from inclusive, sustainable agrifood systems. This action is essential for ending all forms of malnutrition, especially for those most vulnerable, and for achieving the interlinked social, economic and environmental 2030 SDGs. Local and regional governments have already played a pivotal role in advocating for the significance of local and territorial food systems and local agencies in driving forward agrifood systems transformation to support the successful realisation of the SDGs. Now, the collective focus has shifted from advocacy to implementation, towards fostering greater local ownership and facilitating accelerated, coherent, coordinated national and local actions.

Urbanization is a defining force shaping our food systems and the quality of diets. The impacts of urbanization highlight the need for seamless integration of formal and informal sustainable and nutrition-sensitive value chains across the rural-urban continuum. This presents many opportunities and policy entry points for urban and local governments, along with other local stakeholders including other levels of government, wider civil society and multiple sectors. Strengthening local food systems offers the potential to create co-benefits for both communities and the environment.

Leveraging on the many food system connectivities between small, medium and large size cities and rural towns and landscapes, local-level interventions have the capacity to help address the alarming disparities in society. Moreover, these interventions are necessary to address the subsequent diet shift towards poorer diets as a consequence of urbanisation across the rural-urban continuum. Food consumption patterns - even in rural communities - favour affordable, convenient and accessible foods often highly processed and energy-dense with high levels of added sugars, unhealthy fats and/or salt. In this way, interventions contribute to the fight against malnutrition and food insecurity, preserving biodiversity and supporting local economies.

Action at the local level should prioritize quality service provision and enhance access, affordability, and desirability of a diversity of nutritious foods needed for a healthy diet. Attention to equitability and inclusion is essential, including poor communities, gender, life stages, youth, and indigenous communities. The sustainability of these efforts depends on people-centred, multisectoral approaches driven by robust, inclusive food systems governance and targeted investments at the local, regional, and national levels.

The Event on 25 October will focus on three key Objectives:

  • Discussing Local and Territorial Approaches: The event aims to engage in discussions regarding the implications of adopting local and territorial approaches for tackling challenges and harnessing opportunities in delivering healthy diets from sustainable agrifood systems.
  • Showcasing Inclusive Solutions: The event will showcase inclusive, people-centred, locally-based food system tools and solutions designed to address malnutrition, protect the environment, strengthen resilience, and expedite progress towards the 2030 SDGs.
  • Maximizing Opportunities: Lastly, the event will capitalize on opportunities presented by upcoming reports and initiatives, including the High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) Report on “Reducing inequalities for food security and nutrition” and its focus on local food systems and territorial governance. These opportunities can further advocate for and spur action by local and regional governments in agrifood systems transformation.

*The event is co-organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UN-Nutrition, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), The Urban Food Systems Coalition (UFSC), United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN),and The Coalition of Action on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems (HDSFS). This collaborative effort underscores the gravity of the issues at hand and the collective commitment to finding solutions.

** Interpretation will be available in English, French, Spanish