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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds So how can we make food systems more nutrition friendly? Obviously different policy options are available. But we really need to understand the food system, the food environment. And policy mapping is probably a first way to go. Different components support our food system. Obviously, the consumer is influenced by the affordability, the acceptability, and availability of the food. And looking at the production side, agricultural production is very much influenced by agricultural production policies. Obviously, looking at land use and water access is very important. Other elements that can influence nutrition is going through extension workers, farmer schools, and other elements that can further increase nutrient in agricultural production, such as a biofortification, for example.

Skip to 1 minute and 9 seconds That comes obviously with the right supply chain of inputs needed to produce more nutrient-rich foods and also to make farmers more aware of the necessity to produce nutrient-rich foods. Then looking at the market and trade systems, obviously trade policies are very, very important. We do see important trade policies in this region that relate to staple foods. ASEAN and the ASEAN Economic Community has opportunity to look at trade policies and make them more nutrition friendly, as well. Infrastructure is another important component because if we want to advocate for more availability of fresh foods in the market, obviously infrastructure needs to support that, making sure that the right cooling mechanisms, transport systems, etc. can indeed make more fresh foods available.

Skip to 2 minutes and 10 seconds So looking at the agricultural production, possible policies to support in this component relate to research– researching on more nutrient-dense foods. Obviously, also, biofortification is part of that. This can be further supported by subsidies to inputs for nutrient-rich foods. We also have different training programmes that target extension workers in agriculture and farmers to raise awareness on the need to grow more nutrient-dense foods. Looking at markets and trade systems, obviously trade policy is very important. And we are in this region where the ASEAN Economic Community is important. And we do have different countries in this region that have trade policies on specific staple foods.

Skip to 3 minutes and 2 seconds So there is an opportunity to make those trade policies more nutrition friendly as well, especially important in this region also because we do have a lot of very large food industries in this region with very long supply chains across the region and also beyond the region. So, again, trade policies are a very interesting avenue to explore for more nutrient-friendly food systems in the region. Obviously, infrastructure is very important as well because in some countries in some markets we would like to see more fresh foods available. And this, obviously, can only happen if during transport and storage those fresh foods can, indeed, be preserved correctly. This calls for relevant investment in markets and trade systems.

Skip to 3 minutes and 52 seconds And obviously, which is very important, is the agri-business policy that should help further protect consumers in this market. And one important policy I should mention here is the Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes under which food industry, especially breast-milk substitute companies, should indeed give more efforts in promoting, protecting, and supporting exclusive breastfeeding. This doesn’t mean there is no space for breast-milk substitutes. This just means that these breast-milk substitute products need to be marketed with much more ethical values so that mothers can indeed make the right choices on breastfeeding or not, which is, again, as we mentioned, is very important for nutritional outcomes.

Skip to 4 minutes and 42 seconds Looking at food transformation and consumer demand, here very important role in food industry, as well, to including more nutrients in the food, such as staple food fortification, for example rice, which is a widely consumed staple food in the region. Initial steps are being taken to fortify rice in the region. And obviously much more needs to happen to have full uptake. But there are interesting opportunities on rice fortification in the region. Obviously, wheat, oil, and salt are already largely fortified. And efforts should continue to maintain this result.

Skip to 5 minutes and 22 seconds Very important to mention, as well, is the availability, or at least trying to make more available, the processed complementary foods, nutrient-rich foods, of the right quality, again, for our most vulnerable population group– the young children, which can really benefit from these foods available in the market with improved outcomes on nutrition. What really is important here is to make sure that labelling is done correctly, so the consumer, while made aware on the nutrient value of the different foods can, indeed, understand the nutritional value of the foods and make the right choices based, again, on affordability, acceptability, and availability. But labelling should be able to influence the consumers choices for better nutrient-rich foods.

Skip to 6 minutes and 10 seconds Very important to support all of this is regulatory mechanisms in place, supported by government, so that this creates a level playing field for the food industry. Because food safety and quality are serious issues that need to be supported by the relevant policies so that the private sector can, indeed, confidently invest in making more nutrient-rich foods available through the market, to avoid fraud, and making sure that labelling and awareness raising go hand in hand with these policies.

Skip to 6 minutes and 45 seconds Looking at affordability of foods, we do realise that while poverty has reduced significantly in the region, there are still quite an important number of poor people in this region that could benefit from different types of social protection schemes, such as cash transfer or school feeding, so that they can improve their access to nutrient-rich foods. So again, policy mapping and trying to look at the most relevant policy options, depending on the food system we’re looking at, is advised here. Again, there is no such thing as one size fits all. And countries will have to go through this based on their own unique situation.

Policy options for nutrition outcomes

How complicated is it to create policies that promote healthy and sustainable diets? In this video Katrien Ghoos, of the World Food Programme Regional Bureau of Asia and the Pacific, presents a variety of policy options that address the various aspects that influence sustainable diets and nutrition.

Policy options, she argues, must consider the combined goals of affordability, acceptability, and availability of nutritious foods, as well as sustainable agricultural production, land use and water access. Katrien presents us with a fleet of options that, individually cannot achieve all of those goals, but collectively, they can go a long way.

The views expressed in this video are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Food Programme (WFP).

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This video is from the free online course:

Food and Our Future: Sustainable Food Systems in Southeast Asia

Stockholm Environment Institute