Exploring the Global Systems that Shape Diets and Nutrition for Nations Around the Globe

June 29, 2021

From the impacts of quinoa’s global popularity on small-scale Andean farmers, to challenges gaining public acceptance of genetically modified rice in the Philippines, to threats to human health from deforestation and cattle production in the Amazon, ensuring optimal diets and nutrition for the global population is a grand challenge fraught with many contentious issues. Food security for all depends on functional, equitable, and sustainable food systems, highly complex networks of individuals and institutions that rely on governance and policy leadership.

In Global Food Systems, Diets, and Nutrition: Linking Science, Economics, and Policy, a new textbook published this month by Palgrave Macmillan, authors Jessica Fanzo and Claire Davis of Johns Hopkins University explain how interconnected food systems and policies affect diets and nutrition in high-, middle-, and low-income countries. In tandem with food policy, food systems determine the availability, affordability, and nutritional quality of the food supply, which influences the diets that people are willing and able to consume.

“Global food systems touch on every aspect of society in both positive and negative ways. The challenges facing food systems are critical ones that demand urgent attention. As Covid-19 and climate change are showing, our food systems are fragile and inequitable. The book tackles why that is, and what can be done about it,” said Fanzo, the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Global Food Policy and Ethics at Johns Hopkins. “This book is a comprehensive evaluation of how food systems and policy intersect around the world to affect diets and nutrition. By taking a global perspective on food systems and policy, it fills a gap among existing academic textbooks”

Readers will become familiar with both domestic and international food policy processes and actors and be able to critically analyze and debate how policy and science affect diet and nutrition outcomes.

Part I provides an introduction to the key concepts of food systems and food policy. Part II explores the causes and consequences of global malnutrition, assesses the current state of global dietary patterns, and analyzes how various drivers affect food systems, diets, and nutrition. Part III covers the global policy landscape and its influence on diets and nutrition, including policies affecting the food supply chain, food environments, and consumer behavior. Part IV focuses on new challenges to achieve healthy diets for nutrition, addressing the accessibility of diets, sustainable diets amidst the threat of climate change, and new technologies shaping diets and nutrition.

“Our hope is that this book will help educate the next generation of policymakers, researchers, and public health practitioners and improve their understanding of global food policy processes and actors,” said Davis, a science writer for the Global Food Ethics and Policy Program at the Berman Institute of Bioethics.

Case studies examine experiences from Brazil, South Sudan, Malawi, Ethiopia, Mexico, Chile, India, Denmark, Pacific Island countries, United States, and many other countries from around the world. Additional features include chapter introductions and illustrative figures.

“While students enrolled in public health nutrition and policy courses are our intended audience, many chapters may also interest lay readers who want a deeper dive into food systems and policy,” said Davis.

Jessica Fanzo is the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Global Food Policy and Ethics at the Berman Institute of Bioethics, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. She also serves as the Director of Hopkins’ Global Food Policy and Ethics Program, and as Director of Food & Nutrition Security at the JHU Alliance for a Healthier World. From 2017 to 2019, Jessica served as the Co-Chair of the Global Nutrition Report and the UN High Level Panel of Experts on Food Systems and Nutrition. Claire Davis is a Science Writer for the Global Food Ethics and Policy Program. Her work focuses on the relationship between food and diets, human health, and environmental sustainability.