A sustainable food system is at the core of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that call for major transformations in agriculture and food systems to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition by 2030[1].

The elements of food systems, nutrition, and health are intricately linked. To achieve the SDGs, the global food system needs to be reshaped to ensure the inclusiveness of low-income and marginalized populations and guarantee the capacity to provide healthy and nutritious diets to everyone.

Food-based nutrition interventions have a strong potential to enhance food security by improving food production and availability, processing, supply, and commercialization, all while facilitating its access and consumption[2] for improved nutrition outcomes. Food fortification (including large-scale food fortification and biofortification) and dietary diversification are interventions that can modify diet quality and diversity to address multiple micronutrient deficiencies and possibly help reduce the risk of diet-related non-communicable diseases[3].

Rapidly evolving and expanding technologies offer key opportunities to address this global grand challenge and. in doing so, create positive impacts on the food system and environment – and ultimately the global population.

With the incredible growth of digital technologies over the last decade, there is tremendous potential to strengthen and improve initiatives and outcomes, especially in low-resource settings and communities which may have been previously unreachable. In fact, several development sectors have already made efforts to incorporate digital technologies into their programs, including health, agriculture, education, and others.

While there is little literature available detailing how digital technologies can be leveraged across food-system nutrition interventions to improve nutritional outcomes, it is evident that its integration is increasing worldwide as it can improve effectiveness and efficiency across the entire food supply chain.

The Unit of Multisectoral Action in Food Systems, Department of Nutrition and Food Safety, World Health Organization (WHO), and Nutrition International are jointly exploring the potential of leveraging digital technologies to strengthen food-system nutrition interventions for food fortification and dietary diversification for improved nutrition outcomes. The overall objective of this collaboration is to explore the potential for digital technologies to strengthen food-system interventions for food fortification and dietary diversification that address undernutrition and/or overweight and obesity.

Call for papers

Nutrition International and WHO will co-commission six review papers on the use of digital technologies to strengthen food fortification and dietary diversification. The papers call for review of only published evidence/information.

Paper 1

Objective: Review previous and ongoing use of digital technologies with a focus on food-system interventions for food fortification and dietary diversification, and identify potential areas for future integration of digital technologies in these interventions for improved nutrition outcomes

Description

  • This paper must summarize any initiatives/efforts that have been implemented in the past or are currently being implemented using digital technologies in food-system interventions to impact nutrition outcomes.
  • This ought to be done with a focus on assessing use of digital technologies for food fortification and dietary diversification as interventions of choice and being the most critical food-system interventions.
  • It must examine strengths and weaknesses of these initiatives, and ideas and/or emerging solutions to better utilize and integrate digitization into these food-system interventions to improve nutrition outcomes.

Paper 2

Objective: Ascertain the purpose of, and lessons from, using digital technologies in other systems/sectors – including health, agriculture, social protection, etc. – and determine how these lessons may be applied to food-system interventions for food fortification and dietary diversification for improved nutrition outcomes

Description

  • This paper must explore key initiatives across different development sectors that have used digital technologies in their programs.
  • The purpose and pertinent lessons in terms of successes, gaps, challenges, and best practices, from using digital technologies will be identified and documented.
  • Interactive elements critical to improving the success of these efforts will also be identified alongside identifying climate-smart and nutrition-sensitive approaches that could be scaled up.
  • Ways of applying these lessons to food-system interventions for food fortification and dietary diversification for better nutrition outcomes will also be documented.

Paper 3

Objective: Identify and document the synergies and disconnects along the food value chain between food system interventions focusing on food fortification and dietary diversification for improved nutrition outcomes

Description

  • This paper must examine crossroads between food system interventions for food fortification and dietary diversification with a focus on nutrition, production, processing, distribution, supply chains and food environments along the food value chain.
  • Inequities across the food value chain will be explored and suggestions on how to fortify and diversify available diets will be included.
  • Barriers that limit accessibility and affordability of healthy and nutritious foods ought to be explored, with proposed actions for mitigation.
  • Overall, effective integration of food fortification and dietary diversification into the food system will be presented.

Paper 4

Objective: Use of big data and new technological innovations to support decision making and sustainability of food system interventions for food fortification and dietary diversification to improve nutrition outcomes

Description

  • This paper must review and document key technological innovations used in food system interventions for food fortification and dietary diversification, as well as across different development sectors, to effectively use and apply big data for decision making.
  • It ought to explore the feasibility of using new and/or non-traditional data sources to support these food system interventions, including data from social media, web content, transaction data, and others.
  • It will document challenges, lessons learned, and best practices to propose how data and technological innovations can be applied to ensure decision making and sustainability of food fortification and dietary diversification to improve nutrition outcomes.

Paper 5

Objective: Ascertain an ethics-driven approach to food system nutrition interventions for food fortification and dietary diversification, incorporating key legislation, principles, and practices, to support appropriate data and information collection, use, management, governance and security

Description:

  • This paper must explore and document key legislative principles and practices that need to be in place to ensure data security as well as to support and govern ethical use and management of data and information.
  • Examples of data management, data security, and ethical use of data across development sector interventions will be reviewed. Key learnings and pertinent elements that could be used for food-based nutrition interventions for food fortification and dietary diversification will be included.
  • Overall, an ethics-driven approach for data governance in these food-based nutrition interventions will be proposed, including collection, protection, and use of data.

Paper 6

Objective: Review evidence on the ability of digital technologies to influence consumers’ understanding and perspectives on the quality of foods, their nutritional value, and health impacts, and suggest ways to shape consumers’ food behaviours to lead to improved nutrition outcomes

Description:

  • This paper must review the role of digital technologies in influencing consumers behaviours including social media, advertising, marketing, and others.
  • Key lessons and highlights on whether and how digital technologies could influence consumer perspectives and understanding of food quality, health, and nutritional impact must be included.
  • Overall, suggestions should be presented on how to incorporate the findings and learnings into food system interventions for food fortification and dietary diversification to promote better consumer behaviours and lead to improved nutrition outcomes.

The six background papers will address the technical areas and evidence gaps to provide program implementers and policy makers with a comprehensive overview of how digital technologies may be leveraged across food-system interventions for food fortification and dietary diversification to influence and improve nutrition outcomes. The convening team will synthesize and capture the learnings from all these six papers into another (seventh) paper.

Technical consultation

Nutrition International and WHO plan to co-convene a technical consultation to review, examine, and critically assess global programmatic evidence and implementation experiences to inform how to best use digital technologies across food-system interventions addressing the double burden of malnutrition.

The meeting is expected to take place in the second half of 2022. The authors will be invited to present their work, which will be published in a special supplement. The overall outcome of this consultation will be a list of gaps and action points related to the use of digital technologies for strengthening food-system nutrition interventions for food fortification and dietary diversification for improved nutrition outcomes, to improve global policy and programming in this area.

How to submit Expressions of Interest (EoI)

Interested authors or teams must submit the following to both Nutrition International at proposals@nutritionintl.org and to WHO at foodsystems@who.int by January 31, 2022:

  1. A concept note that includes the title, abstract (250 words), objectives, and methods.
  2. A list of authors (lead and co-authors) and an up-to-date curriculum vitae (CV) of each member of the team.
  3. A budget, including team members’ fees and other expected expenses.

Kindly mention ‘Using digital technologies to strengthen food systems nutrition interventions’ in the subject line of the email.

Disclaimer:

  • Interested authors or teams must disclose in their proposal details of any circumstances, including personal, financial and/or business activities, that will or might give rise to a conflict of interest. This disclosure must extend to all personnel proposed to undertake the work.
  • Interested authors or teams who identify any potential conflicts must state how they intend to avoid any impact arising from such conflicts.
  • Nutrition International/WHO reserve the right to reject any proposals which give rise, or could potentially give rise to, a conflict of interest.

Timeline

Mid-February 2022 – Nutrition International and WHO will review the proposals and contact the authors/teams to finalize the next steps.

June 15, 2022 – Draft reviews submitted to Nutrition International and WHO

July 31, 2022 – Final reviews submitted to Nutrition International and WHO

 

[1] Cecilio Moron. Food-based nutrition interventions at community level. Nutrition and Food Systems | Policy Support and Governance Gateway | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Santiago, Chile. British Journal of Nutrition (2006), 96, Suppl. 1, S20–S22.

[2] Nair MK, Augustine LF and Konapur A (2016) Food-Based Interventions to Modify Diet Quality and Diversity to Address Multiple Micronutrient Deficiency. Front. Public Health 3:277. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2015.00277

[3]  Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Sustainable Food Systems: Concept and Framework. (fao.org). Accessed on 27 May 2021