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The importance of food systems and the environment for nutrition

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Research snapshot1

There is considerable ongoing debate around how food systems can better ensure the delivery of healthy, safe, nutritious foods in a way that is environmentally sustainable and resilient to climate change. Food systems are complex entities with many interconnecting drivers, stakeholders and outcomes. Furthermore, food systems and climate change have a cyclical relationship, as environmental change is both a driver and an outcome of food systems.

Climate change impacts the immediate, underlying and basic causes of undernutrition. As climate change progresses, optimal conditions for human health will continue to come under threat introducing instability into our food systems and ultimately decreasing access to nutritionally dense and healthy foods. While this is likely to affect the nutritional status of all populations, it will have a disproportionate impact on poor and marginalised populations.

The bi-directional relationship between food systems, environmental change and nutrition demands that nutrition scientists engage in food systems transformation. Nutrition is inherently a multidisciplinary science; however, within nutrition, scientists have been traditionally siloed into those studying undernutrition and overweight and those in humanitarian or development contexts. Given the global inter-and transdisciplinary nature of these challenges, the traditional boundaries need to be broken down to ensure relevant public health interventions, research and policies.

Current research gaps in this important area include:

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1 Fanzo J, Bellows L A, Spiker L M, Thorne-Lyman L A, Bloem W M (2021) The importance of food systems and the environment for nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr. 2021; 113(1): 7-6. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqaa313.

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The importance of food systems and the environment for nutrition. Field Exchange 65, May 2021. p70. www.ennonline.net/fex/65/foodsystemsnutrition

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