You are what you eat, and so is the Earth.
Our food systems shape our diets, health and nutrition outcomes at the same time as they impact the integrity of the planet and the stability of nations.
Unhealthy diet is now the leading risk factor for deaths worldwide, with billions of people of all ages lacking the nutrients needed to lead an active and healthy life. Around 820 million people suffer from hunger, while over 670 million adults and 120 million boys and girls (aged 5−19) are obese and over 40 million children under 5 are overweight. Micronutrient deﬁciencies affect even greater numbers of people, independent of weight status. The three forms of malnutrition – underweight, overweight and/or micronutrient deﬁciencies – now affect 1 in 3 people globally.
Conventional production, processing, distribution and waste management strategies are depleting resources and contributing to environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and greenhouse gas production.
Nutrition education can embrace a holistic approach toward food for the health of people and the planet simultaneously. This requires a systems-based perspective, which has diversity at the core of the solutions. There are 6,000 plants that have been cultivated for food, yet only eight supply more than 50% of our daily calories. Nutrition education can help change this by inﬂuencing consumer demand for food systems that restore of our water, air and soil, and supports a wide diversity of plants, trees and animals.
As nutrition educators, we are uniquely placed to bridge science, political and private interests, as well as global health concerns. Collaboration between people of diverse experiences and perspectives are needed across all value chains. Through collaboration, nutrition professionals can foster innovation and creativity to inspire people to explore and expand diversity in our agriculture, markets and diets.
Stacia Nordin, RD
SNEB Division of International Nutrition Education (DINE) past-chair, 2018/2019
Chitedze, Lilongwe, Malawi
Jonathan Isbill, MS, RDN
Zubaida Qamar, PhD, RD
Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics, San Francisco State University
San Francisco, CA
This editorial was originally published in the March 2020 issue (Vol. 52, Issue 3) of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.