The last few decades have ushered in a transformation of diets on a global scale as a result of the influence of globalization, economic, demographic, and technological developments, and shifting agricultural systems and priorities on food environments. Traditional diets based on consumption of legumes, staple grains and fruits and vegetables are transitioning to include more foods that are processed and refined, energy dense and nutrient poor, purchased and consumed away from home, and animal-sourced. In this context, many low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) are struggling to address the emerging double burden of malnutrition, characterized by chronic undernutrition and increasing prevalence of overweight, obesity, and diet-related non-communicable diseases, through the food environment.
Food environments are an interface between the wider food system and the individual through which decisions are made about food acquisition, preparation, and consumption behaviors. They include political, economic, sociocultural, and physical food environment elements or conditions that shape what, when, where, how, why, and to whom foods are available, accessible, affordable, acceptable, and consumed. Investigating the drivers within food environments and food systems enables a holistic understanding of the processes that link an individual to their food environment through their choices about food acquisition and consumption.
The Food Environments Working Group seeks to improve understanding of the relationship between food environments and food choice in LMICs. Works in progress include 1) a synthesis that considers the usefulness of conceptual frameworks in studying the complex, dynamic, and reciprocal relationships between the food environment, individual food choice, and health and nutrition outcomes in LMICs, using evidence from the DFC portfolio; 2) an analysis of recommended actions in global nutrition initiatives that link the food environment and food choice and bridge learnings from the DFC-portfolio.
- Development and presentation of a DFC Learning Lab at ANH Academy Week 2020. The Learning Lab focused on identification and measurement of relationships between changing food environments and food choice to inform policy and program actions to support healthy food choice in LMICs and presented illustrative case studies from two DFC projects as well as preliminary results from one of the projects in development by the working group.
- “Understanding drivers of food choice in changing food environments of low- and middle-income countries to inform program and policy” By Blake CE, Constantinides S, Turner C, Warren A, Ambikapathi R, Holdsworth M, Laar A, Sellen D, Frongillo E. 5th Agriculture, Nutrition & Health (ANH) Academy Week Learning Lab, June 24, 2020.
- “Assessing the interface between food environments and food choice to inform policy and program action” Presentation by Constantinides S. Micronutrient Forum, November 9 – 13, 2020.