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Sustainable Food Systems Programme


A multiple challenge

Our planet has the capacity to provide a growing world population with enough nutritious and varied food, now and in the future. However, around 826 million people went hungry in 2021 – an increase of 46 million within a 5-year upward trend. Meanwhile, of the global adult population, circa 30% is overweight or obese, while around 30% of food produced worldwide is lost or wasted.

There is a growing global consensus that this situation is unacceptable and that our food systems need to undergo a profound transformation in order to address the root causes for their current underperformance in terms of sustainability and equity.

Around 30% of greenhouse gas emissions are generated by how we produce, consume and dispose of food. High demand for animal products in many societies and unsustainable livestock production practices are also among the main drivers of habitat destruction and biodiversity loss, particularly tropical deforestation. In addition, animal husbandry and deforestation are two of the three key drivers of the emergence of zoonotic diseases with pandemic potential.

A shift towards healthy and sustainable diets is clearly needed. However, recent figures show that around 3.1 billion people – or 40% of the entire human population - could not afford a healthy diet in 2020, and the number is expected to further increase due to the continuing trend of soaring global food prices and growing inequality. These issues have been further exacerbated by the growing power imbalances among food system actors, as well as by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and armed conflicts across the globe.

Food systems are both contributing to and affected by these interrelated challenges of inequality, hunger and malnutrition, climate change, biodiversity loss, zoonotic diseases, and conflicts. While relying on an increasingly fragile and scarce resource base, the food that is currently produced fails to keep large portions of people worldwide well-nourished and in good health. Scientists have sounded the alarm bell: the warming planet is close to climate tipping points with catastrophic consequences. Unless food consumption and production patterns are brought to operate within planetary boundaries, the risk of our food supply being disrupted is real.


A multi-actor, systems-based response

Responding to these many and interrelated challenges requires a systems-based approach that addresses the range of complex interactions in the production and consumption of food. The One Planet Network’s Sustainable Food System (SFS) Programme contributes to a pathway of transformation towards sustainable food systems that was called for by the UN Secretary General’s Food Systems Summit in 2021, by building synergies and nurturing cooperation among a wide array of actors and initiatives.

Work areas and focus themes

The SFS Programme has four objectives and five cross-cutting focus themes that guide the Programme towards the achievement of its goal of accelerating the shift to sustainable food systems. In fulfillment of these objectives, the SFS Programme has developed a range of tools that are aimed at providing guidance for the transformation to sustainable food systems. Further, in the aftermath of the UN Food Systems Summit, the SFS Programme has aligned its efforts with the Summit’s follow-up processes, including with the creation of two dedicated working groups.

The four objectives are:


  • Raise awareness on the need to shift to more sustainable food systems, and to apply a holistic, systems approach to addressing food security and nutrition.
  • Build capacity and enabling conditions for the identification, prioritization, development and uptake of sustainable practices across food systems and facilitate access to financial and technical assistance.
  • Take stock of, categorize, disseminate, and also develop accessible tools and methodologies to support governments, the private sector, farmers, consumers and other actors to contribute to more sustainable food systems.
  • Bring together initiatives and develop partnerships to build synergies and cooperation towards sustainable food systems.

The following are the five focus themes which represent the main entry points for the SFS Programme’s project portfolio:

  • Sustainable diets
  • Sustainability along all food value chains
  • Reduction of food losses and waste
  • Local, national, regional multi-stakeholder platforms
  • Resilient, inclusive, diverse food production systems