Healthy Diets, Healthy Planet

Healthy Diets, Healthy Planet

Under nutrition and over nutrition are problems that plague poor and rich countries alike. Recently, global leaders met in New York City for the Development Dialogues hosted by the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR). The dialogues on nutrition were one of many discussions on a variety of topics, including agroecology, gender-sensitive agriculture, development partnerships, and others. One emerging theme from the session, entitled “sustainable and healthy food systems,” was a need for more connection between the fields of nutrition and sustainable development.

“Everybody wants to eat like Americans… that has an impact on the planet,” said Dennis Dimmick, executive editor of environment at National Geographic, which has launched a website and project called Future of Food to help people to think more globally about the sustainability of the food system.

Johan Rockstrom, the executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Center, added that, “Healthy diets may actually be more sustainable.” While he said that there is some research linking the two, there is a lack of discussion bringing together the disciplines of nutrition, health, and sustainability. The center’s EAT Forum, which held its first forum in May 2014, is an effort to fill that gap.

Walter Willet, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, pointed out that the current food supply is not well suited to good health. The agriculture sector is not providing the nutrition needed for a healthy diet. “When I look around I see a disaster in all directions. In this country, the Midwest is complete monoculture; the consequences of that are huge,” he said. Globally, the food supply includes too many grains and not enough healthy fats or proteins.