Food System Approach

We are taking a Food Systems approach for transforming the food ecosystem of the country. It includes both demand and supply-side interventions.

What is the food system approach?

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) the food system can be defined as “the complete set of people, institutions, activities, processes, and infrastructure involved in producing and consuming food for a given population”.

This covers all stages of the value chain - from growing and harvesting agricultural products, forestry or fisheries through to processing, packaging, transporting, selling, cooking, consuming, and the disposal of waste food and packaging. Food system does include a single system, but it is composed of various sub system (e.g. farming system, waste management system etc.).

How do we want to take the food system approach?

Eat Right Foundation takes a Food Systems approach to transform the food ecosystem of the country. It includes both demand and supply side interventions.

On the supply side, it focuses on core regulatory functions to ensure quality and standards of food in terms of safety, nutrition and environmental sustainability. This is achieved by setting globally benchmarked standards for food and conducting monitoring activities such as surveillance, testing of food samples and enforcement of standards through robust protocols.

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What are the

Components of Food System?

FOOD SUPPLY CHAINS

The food supply chain describes how the food from a farm ends up on our tables. This includes the agricultural production, processing, storage, packaging, distribution, retail and marketing, consumption and eventually the disposal of the food. Each of these steps in the food supply chain are interrelated in domino-like motion which means if we implement any changes in one of the process, the others gets affected too.

Food supply chains operate at different scales and levels, depending on the food system. In rural and isolated communities, food supply chains may be short where the farmers and food producers either eat the food directly or sell it to their neighbors in the local market. In large urban settings, food supply chains are longer and more complex — food is typically produced farther away and more people are involved in its production, processing, distribution, packaging, retail and consumption. However, food supply chains are undergoing rapid transformations, especially in low and middle-income countries, often leading to more interaction between these urban and rural settings and actors.

FOOD ENVIRONMENTS

Physical places like markets or stores where the consumers interact with the food system for purchasing and eating food is the food environment. Each food environment is dependent on a variety of social, economic and cultural factors. These characteristics of the food environment affect diets by influencing the way people access foods. It includes the affordability and availability of food; quality and appeal, safety and convenience of the product and the type of retail outlet; as well as the way the product is advertised and promoted.

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What are the

External Drivers of Food Systems?

Drivers like environment, economics, politics, health and society all are impacted and have an impact on the food system.

Climate change

Activities like ongoing deforestation, unrelenting fossil fuel consumption, increased Green House Gas emissions is changing the earth’s climate. This in turn, results in extreme and harmful conditions such as droughts, heat waves, typhoons, floods, and rising sea level, thus causing a great risk to the food and nutritional security to people all around the world.

At the production level these climate change can lead to declines in crop yield and fish populations while decreasing the nutrient content of the crops due to the increased level of carbon dioxide. While more crops will be lost due to increased disease susceptibility and extreme weather events at the storage and distribution stage of the food system. Thus, increasing the food prices.

Globalization & Trade

The interdependency of people and countries due to globalization has both positive and negative effect on human health and local economies. As the trades create new avenues for employment and decrease in food prices, it also threatens the livelihoods of small businesses due to increased competition. The lowered cost of imported food and animal feed can increase access to animal source foods and lead to higher protein intake, which is important for areas with high rates of undernutrition.

However, due to lack of proper trade policies and false advertising, unhealthy foods have become increasingly accessible and inexpensive around the world. From traditional and minimally processed foods, people are more drawn towards diet with a lot of salt, unhealthy fats, and added sugars. Also, due to the changing lifestyle habits, people are also less physically active. All of these changes have contributed to the increasing burdens of overweight/obesity and non-communicable diseases.

Moreover, economic growth has altered the structure of the work force in urban areas which is characterized by increased female participation. This has serious consequences for the family diet as the traditional role of the Indian housewife to be in charge of food preparation is eroding. The consumption of readymade meals, or foods that cut the long preparation time of traditional dishes, are predominant feature of the diet for families where there is a high female participation rate. Moreover, working couples enjoy on average higher disposable incomes and are thus are likely to consume food outside the home on a regular basis. Younger generations are more influenced by new foods particularly when these are introduced through an advertising campaign that targets the group specifically. The internet has broadened the advertising possibilities thus leading to change in the consumption habits. This is evident both directly (food consumption/demand) and indirectly (health indicators, indicators of malnutrition, incidence of diet-related diseases like obesity, cancer, diabetes, etc.)

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What are the

Outcomes of Food Systems?

Diet Outcomes

All the aspects of a food system discussed above have a direct or indirect influence on diet. According to WHO, a healthy diet starts early in life and includes a diversity of foods — vegetables, fruits, legumes, starchy staples, and foods from animals, like meat and dairy. A well balanced diet limits fat, added sugar, salt, highly-processed foods, and sugar sweetened beverages as well as the diseases and health issues associated with them.

However, throughout the world, people still do not have access to nutrient-rich foods and adequate calories, resulting in hunger and micronutrient deficiencies. Moreover, rising incomes and changing lifestyles have also contributed to people eating more unhealthy foods, like highly-processed foods and sugar sweetened beverages. Researchers, policy makers, and consumers are also increasingly focused on the environmental sustainability of diets which has a major impacts on the use and degradation of land and water resources, as well as on greenhouse gas emissions.

Nutrition And Health Outcomes

Unhealthy diets are a leading risk factor for disease and undernutrition and are a main risk factors for deaths globally. Nutritionally-vulnerable populations like children and women are especially susceptible to poor health outcomes from these deficiencies like overweight, obesity, and non-communicable diseases, like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Food safety, antimicrobial resistance, and pesticide usage in food system and diets high in sodium and low in whole grains, fruit, nuts, vegetables, and omega3-fatty acids contribute to an increased risk of death.

How can we build a

Sustainable Food Systems in India?

Despite the big increase in world food production, there are still more than 800 million people who are chronically malnourished, 33% of the total food is lost and wasted, and there is a need of 6,900 billion m3 /year water by 2030. Added to that, this growth in production has been accompanied by growing pressure on the environment. Understanding of the fact that the present food system is unsustainable is gradually increasing among scientists, institutions, businesses, policy makers, and citizens. Therefore, developing appropriate strategies to reduce food loss and waste, need for safer and sustainable packaging, reduced water use in food processing and healthy and sustainable urban food system are some of the most important issues related to sustainable development. A judicious use of resources can help find solutions that will provide the world’s growing population with a sufficient supply of healthy food within the environmental limits.

Sustainable Food System is a food system which ensures nutritious food for all without compromising the food needs of future generations. It is comprising of three pillars which are as follow:

  • Economic Sustainability: Generate jobs/incomes and profits
  • Social sustainability: Nutritious and healthy food for all population
  • Environmental sustainability: Reduction in carbon footprint, water footprint and food losses, improvement in soil and plant health

Rural Food System

The global rural population is now close to 3.4 billion and is expected to rise slightly and then decline to 3.1 billion by 2050. Africa and Asia are home to nearly 90% of the world’s rural population in 2018. According to UN (2018), India has the largest rural population (893 million), followed by China (578 million). Rural Food System consist of diverse local food systems that provide the foundations of rural people’s nutrition, incomes, economies and culture. In rural India local food system is predominately food production system (farming) where farmers are growing food that is locally acceptable by utilizing the local available resources. Much of grown food is consumed at the household level and small surpluses sold in the local markets. In this way each link in the food chain offers economic niches for many more people such as millers, carpenters, iron workers and mechanics, local milk processors, bakers, small shopkeepers etc. The livelihoods and incomes of a huge number of rural dwellers are thus dependent on the local manufacture of farm inputs and on the local storage, processing, distribution, sale and preparation of food (Pimbert, 2005).

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