Transforming Food Systems for Healthy Diets and Nutrition: Insights from the 2024 Global Food Policy Report

The 2024 Global Food Policy Report highlights the urgent need to transform food systems to ensure healthy diets and nutrition worldwide.

Transforming Food Systems for Healthy Diets and Nutrition: Insights from the 2024 Global Food Policy Report

The 2024 Global Food Policy Report underscores the necessity of transforming food systems to ensure healthy diets and nutrition worldwide. Adopting a "food systems for sustainable healthy diets" framework, the report emphasizes that healthy diets should be a critical goal of food systems transformation, alongside economic growth, social equity, and environmental sustainability.

This consumer-focused approach highlights the importance of food environments and consumer behaviours in shaping dietary and nutritional outcomes.

Key Principles

1. Sustainable Healthy Diets

Sustainable healthy diets are defined as those that promote all dimensions of health and well-being, are accessible and affordable, culturally acceptable, and have a low environmental impact. These diets must support overall health and be achievable within environmental limits, ensuring future generations can meet their dietary needs.

Sustainable healthy diets include a variety of foods that provide essential nutrients, minimize harmful substances, and reduce the risk of diet-related diseases. These diets are aligned with broader sustainability goals, integrating environmental concerns such as biodiversity, water use, and greenhouse gas emissions.

2. Multi-sectoral Approach

Achieving sustainable healthy diets necessitates a multi-sectoral approach that tackles demand, affordability, food environments, and supply-side constraints in a coordinated manner.

This integrated strategy involves collaboration across different sectors, including agriculture, health, education, and finance, to address the complex factors influencing diet and nutrition. For instance, agricultural policies must support the production of nutrient-dense foods, health policies should promote dietary guidelines that emphasize the importance of nutrition, and educational initiatives must raise awareness about healthy eating habits.

3. Focus on Quality

Policies and actions must prioritize the quality of diets, not just the quantity of food production or consumption. Addressing all forms of malnutrition—undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, and overnutrition—requires focusing on the nutritional value of foods consumed, ensuring diverse and balanced diets. Quality diets include a balance of macronutrients and micronutrients necessary for optimal health, and the emphasis should be on whole, minimally processed foods that retain their nutritional integrity.

4. Understanding Consumer Choices

Understanding the drivers of consumer food choices and creating demand for healthy foods is essential. This includes considering cultural preferences, economic constraints, and psychological factors influencing dietary habits.

Creating an environment that encourages and facilitates healthy eating is as crucial as making healthy foods available. Strategies to influence consumer behaviour could include public health campaigns, nutrition education, subsidies for healthy foods, and regulations limiting the marketing of unhealthy products, especially to vulnerable populations like children.

Main Findings

1. Global Diet Diversity

Less than half the world's population consumes diverse, healthy diets. The report highlights a troubling rise in the consumption of ultra-processed foods, which is fueling an increase in obesity and diet-related diseases.

This shift from traditional diets rich in whole foods to processed alternatives is a major public health concern. Ultra-processed foods, often high in sugars, unhealthy fats, and additives, are linked to various health issues, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and certain cancers.

2. Affordability of Healthy Diets

Healthy diets remain unaffordable for 2-3 billion people, especially in South Asia and Africa. Poverty and the relatively high costs of nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, and animal-source foods are significant barriers.

The report calls for policies that make healthy foods more affordable and accessible to these vulnerable populations. Economic interventions might include subsidies for fruits and vegetables, support for local food production, and initiatives to reduce food loss and waste, lowering costs and improving access.

3. Transforming Food Environments

Transforming food environments is critical to promoting healthy diets. The ubiquitous availability of ultra-processed foods and the challenges faced by fresh, nutritious foods—such as seasonal fluctuations, food safety issues, and lack of marketing—create an environment where unhealthy choices are more convenient and appealing.

Efforts to transform food environments might include urban planning to increase the availability of fresh produce in underserved areas, improving food safety standards, and incentivizing retailers to stock healthier options.

4. Increasing Availability of Nutritious Foods

The report emphasizes the need to increase the availability of diverse, nutritious plant-source foods like fruits, vegetables, and biofortified staples. Moderate amounts of animal-source foods are also crucial for balanced nutrition.

This requires improving agricultural practices, enhancing supply chains, and supporting local food production. Innovations in agriculture, such as the development of climate-resilient crops and sustainable farming techniques, can significantly increase the supply of nutritious foods.

5. Governance and Policy Coherence

Good governance, policy coherence, and managing conflicts of interest with the food industry are major challenges that must be addressed. Effective policies require alignment across sectors and the inclusion of various stakeholders, including governments, the private sector, and civil society, to ensure comprehensive and sustainable solutions.

Strong regulatory frameworks, transparent policymaking, and mechanisms to mitigate the influence of vested interests are essential to creating an environment where public health priorities take precedence over commercial interests.

Recommendations for Action

1. Context-Specific Solutions

The report emphasizes the need for context-specific solutions considering local dietary patterns, cultural preferences, and socio-economic conditions. Policymakers must tailor interventions to address their regions' unique challenges and opportunities, ensuring that solutions are relevant and effective.

This might include localized food fortification programs, community-based nutrition education, and support for small-scale farmers to improve their productivity and market access.

2. Better Data and Metrics

Improving data collection and metrics is crucial for tracking progress and informing policy decisions. Reliable data on dietary patterns, nutritional status, and food system dynamics can help identify gaps, monitor the impact of interventions, and guide future actions.

Investments in research and developing robust monitoring and evaluation frameworks are essential to advancing the understanding of what works and scaling up successful initiatives.

3. Policy Alignment

Policy alignment across sectors is necessary to create synergies and avoid conflicting objectives. For example, agricultural policies should support the production of healthy foods, while trade policies should facilitate their availability and affordability.

Health policies must prioritize nutrition and integrate it into broader public health strategies. Achieving coherence requires inter-sectoral collaboration, coordination mechanisms, and a shared vision for food system transformation.

4. Increased Investments

Increased investments are needed to create environments that enable sustainable, healthy diets. This includes funding for agricultural research, infrastructure development, nutrition programs, and public health initiatives.

Investments should also support capacity building for farmers, food producers, and policymakers to implement best practices and innovative solutions. Donors, governments, and private sector partners must prioritize funding that addresses immediate needs and long-term sustainability.


The 2024 Global Food Policy Report highlights the urgent need for a comprehensive approach to transforming food systems to ensure healthy diets and nutrition. As the world grapples with the dual challenges of malnutrition and environmental degradation, transforming food systems to support healthy diets is not just a necessity but a fundamental step toward achieving broader development goals.

Call to Action

Policymakers, researchers, and stakeholders must collaborate to implement the report's recommendations, focusing on creating resilient, inclusive, and sustainable food systems capable of delivering healthy diets.

Through coordinated, multi-sectoral efforts, we can ensure that healthy, affordable, and sustainable diets are within reach for everyone. The future of global health and well-being depends on our ability to make these changes now.