We have knowledge, tools, and partnerships – now it’s time to act
Leah Richardson 02 May 2024
A guide on collaborative solutions for Food Systems, Climate Change, and Nutrition challenges

The evidence linking food systems, climate and nutrition is becoming clear. We know more now on how the Food Systems, Climate Change and Nutrition communities can come together to nourish both people and planet. Now it’s time to take immediate practical steps to work together.

Food systems, the climate crisis and people’s nutrition are directly connected. Food systems affect our nutrition by directly influencing the accessibility of affordable, appealing, diverse and nutritious foods, with maternal, infant and young child diets most at risk. At the same time, current food systems are a key driver of environmental degradation, and climate change is further exacerbating populations’ vulnerability to malnutrition. 


Evidence of the interconnection of Food Systems, Climate Change and Nutrition is growing

The intersections between climate change, food systems, and nutrition (Figure 1) are still not adequately recognised or resourced, despite  growing evidence and attention.  The first ever baseline conducted by GAIN on the current state of integration between climate and nutrition found low levels of climate-nutrition integration within action, data capacities, policy and strategy, and finance. 

Figure 1: Food systems and the environment for nutrition
Figure 1: Food systems and the environment for nutrition (Fanzo et al. 2021)

Yet in the last year alone there has been an explosion of reports and resources highlighting evidence on how food systems, climate, and nutrition are closely intertwined with common yet complex multidirectional pathways that link drivers, actions and outcomes.  Some key examples include:

  • a UN-Nutrition discussion paper which examines the linkages between climate change, food systems and nutrition and presents a range of policy options and practical measures that generate co-benefits for people and the planet.
  • ENN’s literature review which explores recent, evolving and neglected topics in the intersection of food systems, climate change and nutrition including a deeper examination of how to leverage sustainable food systems to prevent malnutrition (Figure 2) and establish sustainable food systems in conflict settings.
  • Stronger Foundations for Nutrition Evidence Review on Climate Change & Nutritious Foods summarizes how climate change will continue to affect the production and availability of nutritious foods and considers data-driven solutions to mitigate emissions from food systems while protecting human health.
  • An ENN and WFP rapid review which summarises the evidence base for interventions to prevent wasting that address food and feeding-related needs and found there are high-quality studies and a growing body of evidence.
  • FAOs report on climate action and nutrition found that responding to both climate change and malnutrition with integrated actions provides one solution to two of our biggest barriers to sustainable development and looked beyond food systems to explores options for integrated actions including water, social protection, and health systems.

Graphic Sustainable Food systems for preventing malnutrition_copyedited.png
Figure 2. Leveraging sustainable food systems to prevent malnutrition (ENN 2024)
Here’s how Food Systems, Climate Change and Nutrition communities can come together

Collectively we need to tackle barriers and missed opportunities. After digesting 135 articles and reports to explore new, emerging and neglected topics at the intersection of food systems, climate change and nutrition, ENN’s reflections on ways forward encourage us to  work together and take action.  

To the climate community – include nutrition in climate action!

  • Include the nutrition (and health) sector in climate action and decision-making. Climate policies directly affect nutrition outcomes and health systems.
  • There needs to be increased representation of nutrition (and health) priorities and needs within climate dialogues to ensure that climate action positively impacts the nutritional status of the world’s population.


To the nutrition community – factor in climate change and impact!

  • Nutrition programmes must become more climate conscious, reducing their contribution to climate change. The nutrition sector needs to map and minimise the climate and environmental impact of nutrition interventions, such as long supply chains, waste, procurement policies, and other interventions, learning from climate-friendly health sector initiatives such as...
  • Considering the fluctuations in nutrition outcomes with a changing climate, nutrition programming needs to be flexible and adaptable to deal with both rapid and persistent changes to the climate: for example, using climate forecasting to target nutrition interventions to at-risk populations and seasonal nutrition programming to respond to increasing climate-affected seasonal fluctuations in malnutrition.


To the Food Systems community – build on the opportunities already present!

  • Leverage opportunities in global initiatives promoting a multisectoral approach. For example, the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement or the Global Action Plan (GAP) on Child Wasting calls for increased focus on the prevention of malnutrition through a multisectoral approach. For example, for each of the four GAP outcome areas, key priority actions related to food systems are identified. Furthermore, the costed national road maps developed by 22 countries present an opportunity for positioning food systems as central to the prevention of wasting, with renewed attention and investment in tailored approaches at country level.
  • Fast-track applying the established and emerging knowledge and practice we already have on how to work with the intersection of food systems, climate change and nutrition. Don’t wait for the perfect solutions before acting. In light of the global syndemic of obesity, undernutrition and climate change we cannot afford to wait for all action to lead to controlled and entirely known outcomes.


How you can get started

Feeling overwhelmed?  Not sure where to start?

Well, use tools out there to help navigate the wealth of knowledge such as the Climate Nutrition Evidence Base compiling evidence on the impacts of climate change on nutrition and this interactive Evidence and Gap Map (EGM) of synthesis literature linking climate change to food systems, nutrition and nutrition-related health.

Join forces with alliances like the Initiative on Climate and Nutrition (I-CAN) and the Coalition of Action for Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems for all. Together we can articulate a common narrative, experiences, champion policy actions and pave the way for coordinated action.

Collect and share more stories of how change has happened. In doing so ensure greater representation of low- and middle-income contexts in the learning on how theory and practice translate into different contexts to support nationally led change to establish priorities and make investments. By understanding what works in different contexts we gain understanding of what are the practical do-able actions for integrating actions, navigating trade-offs and building co-benefits.

We have knowledge, tools, and partnerships – now it’s time to act!

Figure 1: Food systems and the environment for nutrition
Photo credit
Fanzo et al. 2021
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