The Future of Food: Shaping the Global Food System to Deliver Improved Nutrition and Health


  • The world bears the triple burden of malnutrition: hunger; undernutrition due to insufficient intake of vitamins and minerals; and obesity due to unhealthy diets.
  • Feeding people well is as important as feeding people enough; shaping food systems to deliver safe, nutritious and sustainable food should be a priority.
  • Interventions for better nutrition and health need to change behavior across the production-to-consumption continuum.

There is consensus that the food system should be able to feed a growing population and the 795 million people that go hungry every day.

But food quality is equally important.

Over 165 million children under five are stunted due to chronic malnutrition.  Contaminated food impacts one in ten people globally—around 420,000 people die from contaminated food each year. According to estimates, more than two billion people do not get all the vitamins and minerals they need.  Meanwhile another two billion people struggle with being overweight or obese—many of them in developing countries.

A new paper from the World Bank explores why the global food system needs to prioritize improved nutrition and health and deliver nutritious, safe and sustainable food. The paper also explores the types of food system interventions that can deliver improved nutrition and health, and effective ways to implement this agenda.

Main messages:

•  Malnutrition and food-borne diseases impose large current and future human, economic, fiscal and social costs on countries. Key among these is child stunting, which reduces cognitive development and a person’s lifetime earnings.

•  Shaping food systems to deliver improved nutrition and health requires a combination of improved knowledge, sound policies, regulations, and investments across the production- to-consumption continuum. The goal is to stimulate behavioral change in food producers, post-harvest handlers, food processors, food distributors, and consumers. Women will also play a key role because they often link food systems and household nutrition.

•  Interventions include: reducing food loss through improved storage, fortifying foods with nutrients, expanding nutrition education, improving food labelling and modernizing food safety regulations.

•  When it comes to implementing these interventions, no one size fits all. Countries need to tailor the combination of interventions to suit their specific needs. Moreover, different combinations of actions are needed across low- middle-and high-income countries. 

Last Updated: Apr 12, 2016