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Food Systems for Children and Adolescents

The meeting

Malnutrition, in all of its forms, is a problem of global proportion and requires urgent action. In many parts of the world, most children and adolescents do not receive the diets they need – in quantity, frequency and quality – to survive, grow, and develop to their full potential. Poor dietary diversity, inadequate dietary patterns, and frequent consumption of poor quality foods contribute to this reality. Poor quality diets cut across all age groups from infancy through school-age years and adolescence, as well as across regions and countries, with consequences for undernutrition, overweight and non-communicable diseases.

Food systems are essential to delivering healthy, affordable and sustainable diets, but the nutritional needs of children and adolescents (both of present and future generations) are often not prioritized. Actors across the food system, including food producers and suppliers, typically do not account for the nutritional needs of children and adolescents when determining what foods to grow, produce, distribute, and sell. Processed, less nutritious foods are skillfully marketed and widely available and affordable, while nutritious foods are often more expensive and unaffordable to many. The food environment often does not lend itself to nutritious diets for children and adolescents, nor is it incentivized to do so. Actors across local, national and global food systems need to be held accountable for providing healthy, affordable and sustainable diets to children and adolescents today and in the future.

To this end, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, co-hosted a global consultation on children, adolescents and food systems at the UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti on 5-7 November 2018. The consultation brought together 60 participants from government, development partners, business, and academia from low-, middle- and high-income settings. The consultation aimed to:

The consultation aimed to:

(1)     Develop a common narrative around the need for food systems to produce nutritious, safe, affordable, accessible, and sustainable diets for children and adolescents,

(2)     Validate a common approach to elucidate priority actions within the food system to improve diets of children and adolescents, and

(3)     Develop an action plan to improve children and adolescents’ diets using a food systems approach.    

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