Menu ENN Search

Food systems for children and adolescents

View this article as a pdf

Research snapshot1

Well-nourished children and adolescents are the foundation of thriving communities and nations. Undernutrition, in the form of stunting, wasting and micronutrient deficiencies, remains widespread among young children while overweight, obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases are increasing rapidly among children and adolescents including in countries and regions where undernutrition is still prevalent. Recognising that food systems are essential to supporting diet quality among children and adolescents but that their nutritional needs are rarely prioritised in efforts to reorient food systems, UNICEF and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) convened a ‘Global consultation on food systems for children and adolescents’ in November 2018 to identify priority actions for food systems and diet quality among children and adolescents. A special issue of ‘Global Food Security’ contains a series of 10 papers that were commissioned based on the priorities identified before and during the consultation.

Three papers describe the distinctive way that children and adolescents engage with the food system and how this influences their diets (Fox & Timmer, 2020), nutrition recommendations for the dietary intakes of children and adolescents (Hollis et al., 2020) and what data is available  on diet quality in low- and middle-income settings (Kupka et al., 2020). These three papers indicate that children and adolescents require special attention in food system reorientations for improved diets and that, despite existing data gaps, there is evidence that children’s and adolescents’ dietary intakes are sub-optimal compared to dietary recommendations. A further paper builds on this evidence to create a conceptual framework of food systems for the diets of children and adolescents – the ‘Innocenti Framework’ – that depicts drivers, determinants, influencers and interactions (Raza et al., 2020) and another paper details specific actions to reorient food systems for improved diets in this age group (Hawkes et al., 2020). These tools address important conceptual and practice gaps and create common analytical reference points for different stakeholders working on food systems and nutrition.

Reviews of evidence are included regarding how to improve food supply chains (Nordhagen, 2020), food environments (Downs & Demmler, 2020) and food behaviours  (Tumilowicz & Pelto, 2020) – the key determinants of food systems outlined in the Innocenti Framework.  Recognising the changing landscape of malnutrition, a review of evidence is included regarding the marketing of unhealthy, ultra-processed foods to children and adolescents, especially on digital platforms (Tatlow-Golden & Garde, 2020). A concluding paper presents the key implications for public policies and programmes with specific country-level illustrations (Morris et al., 2020). This special issue will be useful for food system reorientations in support of improved diet quality among children and adolescents, as protecting the diets of children and adolescents has never been more urgent and relevant than now.


Subscribe freely to receive Field Exchange content to your mailbox or front door.


1 Edited by Roland Kupka, Saul Morris, Elizabeth Fox. (2020). Food Systems for Children and Adolescents. Global Food Security, Volume 27, December 2020


Downs, S., & Demmler, K. M. (2020). Food environment interventions targeting children and adolescents: A scoping review. Global Food Security, 27, 100403. doi:

Fox, E. L., & Timmer, A. (2020). Children's and adolescents' characteristics and interactions with the food system. Global Food Security, 27, 100419. doi:

Hawkes, C., Fox, E., Downs, S. M., Fanzo, J., & Neve, K. (2020). Child-centered food systems: Reorienting food systems towards healthy diets for children. Global Food Security, 27, 100414. doi:

Hollis, J. L., Collins, C. E., DeClerck, F., Chai, L. K., McColl, K., & Demaio, A. R. (2020). Defining healthy and sustainable diets for infants, children and adolescents. Global Food Security, 27, 100401. doi:

Kupka, R., Siekmans, K., & Beal, T. (2020). The diets of children: Overview of available data for children and adolescents. Global Food Security, 27, 100442. doi:

Morris, S. S., Barquera, S., Sutrisna, A., Izwardy, D., & Kupka, R. (2020). Perspective: Interventions to improve the diets of children and adolescents. Global Food Security, 27, 100379. doi:

Nordhagen, S. (2020). Food supply chains and child and adolescent diets: A review. Global Food Security, 27, 100443. doi:

Raza, A., Fox, E. L., Morris, S. S., Kupka, R., Timmer, A., Dalmiya, N., & Fanzo, J. (2020). Conceptual framework of food systems for children and adolescents. Global Food Security, 27, 100436. doi:

Tatlow-Golden, M., & Garde, A. (2020). Digital food marketing to children: Exploitation, surveillance and rights violations. Global Food Security, 27, 100423. doi:

Tumilowicz, A., & Pelto, G. H. (2020). Interventions to improve dietary intake behaviors among children and adolescents. Global Food Security, 27, 100413. doi:

More like this

FEX: Conceptual framework of food systems for children and adolescents

Research Snapshot1 Malnutrition in all its forms - undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight/obesity - affects all age groups across the world and children and...

FEX: Impacts of COVID-19 on childhood malnutrition and nutrition-related mortality

View this article as a pdf Research snapshot1 The COVID-19 pandemic will likely increase the risk of all forms of malnutrition as a result of rapid changes to the...

FEX: Thiamine Deficiency Remains an Urgent Public Health Problem

By Megan W. Bourassa, Filomena Gomes and Gilles Bergeron Megan Bourassa, PhD is the Associate Director for Nutrition Science at the New York Academy of Sciences where she has...

FEX: UN Global Action Plan (GAP) Framework for Child Wasting and the Asia and Pacific Region

View this article as a pdf Lisez cet article en français ici By Harriet Torlesse, Roland Kupka, Warren T K Lee, Britta Schumacher and Angela de Silva Harriet Torlesse...

FEX: Looming threat of COVID-19 infection in Africa: act collectively, and fast

View this article as a pdf Research snapshot1 Because of the high volume of air traffic and trade between China and Africa, Africa is at high risk of the introduction and...

FEX: South Asia and child wasting – unravelling the conundrum

View this article as a pdf Lisez cet article en français ici By Harriet Torlesse and Minh Tram Le Background Each annual release of the Joint Malnutrition Estimates...

Resource: Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies (IYCF-E). Programming in The Context Of COVID-19: Considerations for Adaptations

Introduction The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global emergency with 216 countries affected, more than 19 million confirmed cases and more than 900,000 deaths as of...

FEX: Improving maternal nutrition in South Asia: Implications for child wasting prevention efforts

View this article as a pdf Lisez cet article en français ici By Zivai Murira and Harriet Torlesse Zivai Murira is Nutrition Specialist at United Nations Children's...

FEX: Higher heights: a greater ambition for maternal and child nutrition in South Asia

Research Summary 1 Poor nutrition in early life threatens the growth and development of children, which has a knock-on effect on the sustainable development of nations. This...

FEX: Effective coverage measurement in maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and nutrition

View this article as a pdf Research snapshot1 Monitoring progress towards achieving universal health coverage requires an understanding of the proportion of the population in...

FEX: Relapse and regression to severe wasting in children under 5 years: A theoretical framework

View this article as a pdf Research snapshot1 Recently published reviews on relapse to severe wasting and long-term treatment outcomes suggest that levels of severe wasting...

FEX: Editorial

View this article as a pdf Lisez cet article en français ici A warm welcome to our 63rd edition of Field Exchange, focused on child wasting in South Asia. The idea for...

Addressing inequities in nutrition outcomes in Nepal: Integrating an unconditional child cash grant and infant and young child feeding programme

View this article as a pdf Kedar Raj Parajuli is the Chief of the Nutrition Section in the Family Welfare Division of the Department of Health Services, Ministry of Health and...

FEX: New approach to assess the nutrition and food security impacts of Ethiopia’s safety net programme

View this article as a pdf Research snapshot1 The past two decades have seen a rapid increase in social protection programmes in African countries to alleviate poverty, food...

FEX: Ebola virus disease and breastfeeding – comment

View this article as a pdf Research snapshot1 The authors commend Mija Ververs and Akanksha Arya2 for highlighting an urgent need for evidence-based breastfeeding guidance in...

FEX: The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the social, economic and health status of low-income populations in India

View this article as a pdf Research Snapshot1 In response to surging COVID-19 cases, the Government of India imposed a lockdown in most districts of the 22 States and Union...

FEX: Biannual azithromycin distribution and child mortality among malnourished children in Niger

Research snapshot1 Biannual azithromycin distribution has been shown to reduce child mortality as well as increase antimicrobial resistance. The authors assessed whether this...

FEX: Engaging caregivers in at-home surveillance of children with uncomplicated severe acute malnutrition

View this article as a pdf Research snapshot1 Although outpatient care has been shown to be highly effective, cost-effective and acceptable across a variety of settings, only...

FEX: Integration of family planning in nutrition programming: experiences from the Suaahara II programme in Nepal

View this article as a pdf By Basant Thapa, Manisha Laxmi Shrestha, Dr. Bhuwan Poudel, Ganga Khadka, Bijendra Banjade and Dr. Kenda Cunningham Basant Thapa is a family...

NEX: Tracking progress for breastfeeding policies and programmes

Breastfeeding (BF) is reported to be one of the most effective investments a country can make in nutrition programming. It not only provides protection against child morbidity...


Reference this page

Food systems for children and adolescents. Field Exchange 64, January 2021. p77.



Download to a citation manager

The below files can be imported into your preferred reference management tool, most tools will allow you to manually import the RIS file. Endnote may required a specific filter file to be used.