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Food systems and nutrition

Katrien Ghoos, World Food Programme Regional Bureau of Asia and the Pacific, links malnutrition and prevalent food system types in Southeast Asia
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So in an attempt to better classify food systems and their readiness to support better nutrient intake, a classification was proposed in preparation to the International Convention of Nutrition at the end of 2014. And people who came up with the classification looked at agricultural productivity, different types of food available, the supply, the demographics, the economic accessibility of the foods, and some other factors that led to the establishment of five food systems. Food system one is called industrial food system. Then food system two, mixed, transitioning, emerging, and rural, where we look at influence of agriculture on GDP.
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For example, in the rural food system is much higher than in the industrial system, which, for example, also explains that in the rural food system, the consumer and a producer are much closer to each other than in the industrial food system, where the supply chain of food is much, much longer. So those five different types of food systems were defined to help measuring progress, making the different food systems more nutrition friendly, if you want. But also to establish probably different types of policies that go with the different types of food systems. Obviously rural, where you do have a large input from agriculture.
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Policies on agriculture can immediately influence nutrient density of foods available in the market, while in the industrial type, where you have much less contribution from agriculture, your policies should focus on other components in the supply chain to make those foods more nutrient rich. So the different food systems were analysed for different components, such as food affordability. When we look at rural and emerging food system, we do see a high share of food and non-alcoholic beverages in the household expenditure. And the importance of these foods and fruits and vegetables is much less in the households that depend on the industrial food system. This means that food is less affordable in rural and emerging food systems.
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And that people in the industrial food system are really much expecting to have access to very cheap food. So this indicates here the affordability of healthy foods, which is much lower in rural and emerging food systems. The different food systems also have different consumption patterns, with the rural system very much depending on staple food and the industrial system very much depending on animal source foods. These animal source foods relate to fats used in ultra-processed foods and also a diet very much depending on meat, including red meat, which is not only unhealthy but also has a very high environmental footprint. The different food systems are also characterised by different levels of malnutrition.
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We do see that all systems have malnutrition problems, but overweight is much more of a problem in the industrial, mixed, and transitioning food systems, while stunting and micro-nutrient deficiencies are much more important in the rural and emerging food systems. Of course, this can be linked indeed to the dietary patterns, as we just saw, where emerging and rural food systems very much rely on staple food. And the industrial and mixed very much rely on processed foods. But when we look at the trends in changes of these processed foods, according to the food systems, we see that in the industrial food system, no more changes really occur in accessing these processed foods.
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These changes are much more important in transitioning, emerging, and rural food systems which probably indicates that those food systems, while already facing very high burden of under-nutrition, in future, we will not necessarily see their under-nutrition going down but overweight going up because of people accessing more processed foods in these food systems.
We have already discussed the different food system types in Southeast Asia – traditional, modern and intermediate, and the trends and transition between types. In this video, Katrien Ghoos, of the World Food Programme Regional Bureau of Asia and the Pacific, explains how nutritional outcomes are linked to the prevalent food system types across Southeast Asia, using an expanded classification with five types: industrial, mixed, transitioning, emerging and rural.
Katrien draws particular attention to rural and emerging food systems in the region, emphasizing the consumption trends associated with these food system types and the ongoing challenge of malnutrition in the region, which we will discuss in more detail in Week 4: Food security, healthy diets and livelihoods in Southeast Asia.
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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Food and Our Future: Sustainable Food Systems in Southeast Asia

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