Every year, unhealthy diets cause 11 million deaths and 420,000 more people die from unhealthy food, according to the UN. In addition, unhealthy diets lead to chronic diseases that cause suffering and weigh heavily on the budgets of all countries.
To deal with this reality, five specialized United Nations agencies – the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Program (WFP), the United Nations United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) – on Friday launched a coalition calling for action to provide healthy and affordable diets for all from sustainable food systems.
Some 3 billion people across the globe cannot afford a healthy diet.
“The Coalition will help countries achieve their human health and environmental sustainability goals, achieving a real win for people, climate and nature,” the WFP said.
Members of the Healthy Eating Action Coalition pointed out that some 3 billion people cannot afford healthy eating and that unhealthy eating habits are linked to six of the top ten risk factors for the global burden of disease.
In addition, undernutrition constitutes a violation of the human right to food and continues to generate social and health inequalities.
The unsustainable practices that define global food systems today are also driving deforestation, biodiversity loss, ocean depletion, the emergence of zoonoses and antimicrobial resistance.
Food systems that make people sick
UN agencies said current food systems are making people sick and called for transformation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The agencies reiterated that health, nutrition and environmental sustainability must be at the heart of transforming food systems.
Healthy diets in a sustainable food system are food consumption patterns that promote health and prevent disease. But to be widely consumed, healthy foods must be available, affordable, accessible and appealing to everyone.
It must also be produced and distributed in a way that guarantees decent work and protects the planet, soil, water and biodiversity.
The Coalition’s vision is to mobilize and support collective action to achieve the goal of healthy diets for all from sustainable food systems.
To this end, lead agencies stress the urgency of consistent and imminent action in policy, practice, data availability and resource allocation.
The Coalition’s work plan has three essential points:
Mobilize and coordinate knowledge for orchestrated action on food systems to have a positive impact at the national level.
Manage special projects, based on country priorities, to integrate nutrition, health and sustainability through food.
Successful implementation of this plan would achieve several targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as eradicating hunger and malnutrition in all its forms, promoting healthy lives and well-being being for all, reducing non-communicable diseases, improving maternal and child health, promoting responsible consumption and production, and taking urgent action to combat climate change.
The expected outcome of the Coalition’s work is increased action to achieve collective impact on healthy diets produced by sustainable food systems.
The Coalition is already implementing its work plan and realizing its vision.
The Coalition was formed following the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021 and brings together Member States, UN agencies, civil society organizations, academic institutions and social movements.