The IPC-IG and FAO launch a new issue of the Policy in Focus magazine discussing how the food systems approach can be leveraged to help reduce poverty and malnutrition


Hands cutting vegetables


Leveraging food systems for poverty and malnutrition reduction” is a special issue of the Policy in Focus magazine, and was produced by the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Its 13 articles explore how a food systems approach can be used to design and implement better policies that reach those most vulnerable to poverty, hunger, malnutrition and suboptimal diets. Discussions include themes such as school meals, taxation of unhealthy foods, local markets, rural poverty, products with geographical indication, maternal nutrition, how can small and medium enterprises contribute to food safety, and more.

In the introductory article,Exploring synergies between poverty and malnutrition reduction efforts within the food systems transformation agenda”, specialist guest editors Ahmed Raza (FAO) and Fabio Veras (IPC-IG) discuss how food systems can help countries to overcome poverty and malnutrition to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. According to the authors, “consumers, citizens and households play a catalytic role in demanding healthy diets from food systems”.

In “Nutrition-sensitive value chain development and its role in improving nutrition and transforming food systems”, James Garrett (CIAT) and Isabel de la Peña (IFAD) discuss how agriculture relates to healthy diets and how current food systems fail to deliver the affordable, diverse, safe, healthy foods needed to address global nutrition issues. The article presents some case studies on how to overcome these challenges.

In the following article, “Understanding the potential of territorial markets to reduce poverty and promote healthy diets”, authors Marcello Vicovaro, Ana Puhač and Florence Tartanac (FAO) discuss how supporting smallholders farmers and territorial markets can help mitigate hunger and poverty, both of which disproportionately affect the rural population.

Pilar Santacoloma and Manuel Anta (FAO) discuss “The role of small- and medium-sized enterprises in addressing the malnutrition challenge: reflections from project implementation in Ghana, Kenya and Viet Nam”. The article demonstrates how malnutrition challenges can be addressed by small and medium-sized enterprises, which produce between 30 per cent and 65 per cent of all the food consumed globally, and even more—between 75 per cent and 90 per cent—consumed in sub-Saharan Africa alone. It also presents case studies from field projects developed by FAO.

“Taxes as a policy measure to promote healthy diets” is the fifth article of this special issue. Penned by Shu Wen Ng, M. Arantxa Colchero, Juan Rivera and Barry Popki (University of South Carolina at Chapel Hill), it discusses how taxes on unhealthy food items, such as sweetened beverages and ultra-processed foods, have the potential to promote healthier consumption patterns and reduce health-related social inequities. It showcases the programmes implemented in Mexico and Chile and considers the way forward to create fiscal policies in support of healthy diets.

In “Building a food safety culture in Bangladesh”, Sridhar Dharmapuri (FAO) explains how one of the world’s most densely populated countries has overcome various challenges in the pursuit of food safety.

Alejandro Grinspun (FAO), Mario Gyori (LSE) and Rodrigo Rivera (FAO) explain the recent challenges in overcoming malnutrition in their following article, “Ending malnutrition in all its forms: social protection and the growing prevalence of overweight, obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases”. The article also discusses the role of social protection in tackling obesity.

The article “Social protection responses to COVID-19 in the Middle East and North Africa: the case of Egypt”, written by Hoda El-Enbaby and Clemens Breisinger (IFPRI), examines how food subsidies and cash transfers have helped countries in the MENA region tackle poverty and hunger, exacerbated by COVID-19, and how governments could leverage this opportunity to improve their social protection programmes.

In “Enhancing maternal nutrition through cash transfers: what does the evidence say?”,  Maja Gavrilovic, Lusajo Kajula and Juliana Nyasha Tirivay (UNICEF) consider how maternal nutrition affects the health of babies, both in the womb and during breastfeeding, and how cash transfers can help improve the nutrition of vulnerable mothers during pregnancy.

Maria Antonia Tuazon (FAO) subsequently discusses “Empowering women for poverty alleviation and improved nutrition outcomes: from anecdotes to evidence”, examining a project developed by FAO in Lao PDR to discuss the influence of gender on poverty and hunger alleviation.

In “The potential of policy and programmatic synergies for impacting poverty and nutrition outcomes through schools”, authors Melissa Vargas, Luana Swensson and Diana Carter (FAO), posit that “coherent legislative measures can target and protect those who are most vulnerable to food insecurity by defining clear legal entitlements for guaranteeing children’s access to food at school and providing poor people with effective grievance redressal mechanisms in case of violations”.

Iean Russell, Flavia Lorenzon, PirroTomaso Perri (FAO), Raja Khalidi (MAS) and Ana C. Louteiro (FAO) subsequently explain “The Inter-Agency Social Protection Assessment Tool for food security and nutrition: what it is, and how it was applied in Cambodia, the State of Palestine, and Paraguay”. This article examines the tool, which aims at supporting national and subnational governments in assessing how social protection programmes can be harnessed to improve food security and nutrition outcomes. It also presents case studies on how the tool was used and adapted to respond to the challenges of three different countries.

Closing this special issue of Policy in Focus, “The potential role of geographical indications in promoting healthy diets and reducing rural poverty”, by Bin Liu, discusses how products with geographical indication, such as traditional foods, have great potential to contribute to improved nutrition and combat non-communicable diseases. It also discusses how exploring such products can reduce poverty among people living in rural areas, improving the economic well-being of producers and their communities.

The full issue is available for download here.

Photo: Holly Holmes/WorldFish