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Food Systems Innovation Hubs in Low-and-Middle-Income Countries

March 26, 2021
The Scientific Group for the UN Food Systems Summit 2021

Kalpana Beesabathuni, Sufi a Askari, Madhavika Bajoria, Mar􀆟 n Bloem, Breda Gavin-Smith, Hamid Hamirani, Klaus Kraemer, Priyanka Kumari, Srujith Lingala, Anne Milan, Puja Tshering, Kesso Gabrielle van Zutphen, Kris Woltering

Our food systems are under pressure and failing us. This failure includes the inability to (a) produce and deliver high-quality diets to meet nutritional needs, (b) produce equal and equitable benefits, and (c) mitigate negative consequences.

The threats and consequences of such failing food systems are wide-ranging. Diets are a significant predictor for the nutritional status and overall health of vulnerable groups. In 2019, 21.3 percent (144 million) of children under five were estimated to be stunted, 6.9 percent (47 million) wasted, and 5.6 percent (38.3 million) overweight, while at least 340 million children suffer from micronutrient deficiencies2. And although child stunting is declining, global hunger is on the rise again3. Simultaneously, over one-third of the global adult population is overweight or obese. Furthermore, sub-optimal diets serve as a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases, driving up morbidity and mortality risks, especially in low-income countries (LMICs).

Malnutrition results in an unacceptably high economic burden for individuals, communities and entire economies. Directs costs of poor nutrition relate, for instance, to the treatment of overweight-related conditions, underweight-related conditions, and diet-related non-communicable diseases. All of these contribute to significant and rapidly rising health care costs. In fact, government spending on healthcare increased by 2.5 times in the last 20 years6. Such dramatic trends are clearly unsustainable. Indirect costs are also generated in the form of preventable child deaths and impaired cognitive development.