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Discussion Papers (series)

The food systems approach in practice: Our guide for sustainable transformation


Koen Dekeyser, Francesco Rampa, Cecilia D’Alessandro and Paulina Bizzotto Molina, ECDPM paper, July 2020

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Tackling the myriad sustainability challenges related to food – from the environmental impacts of food production to the health consequences of inadequate diets – requires systemic interventions that improve sustainability at local, national, and international level.

Recently, several approaches have been developed to guide systemic interventions, but due to the complexity of food systems, taking a ‘food system approach’ is often seen by practitioners and decision-makers as a daunting task requiring considerable resources. In this paper, we develop an iterative, step-based sustainable food system approach that helps navigate complexity and is flexible in its required resources, thus enabling a fast overview or a deep dive as determined by a project’s or organisation’s objectives.

Our approach combines four components: food system, sustainability, political economy analyses, and the development of transformation pathways to advance food system sustainability. The use of each component is organised into steps, involving practical methods and tools. The goal of the approach is to help practitioners and decision-makers describe and diagnose food systems to develop more coherent, effective, and context-appropriate interventions for the necessary transformations.

This paper is part of our thematic series that focuses on developing and using a ‘food system approach’ to look at food-related challenges. Read the second of the series here.

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Photo courtesy of nrd via Unsplash.

Read the other papers of the series

Understanding and managing trade-offs in food systems interventions: The case of Nakuru county, Kenya
Cecilia D’Alessandro, Paulina Bizzotto Molina, Koen Dekeyser and Francesco Rampa, ECDPM paper, February 2021

Adopting a sustainable food system approach: Implications for Ireland’s development programming and policy influencing
Koen Dekeyser and Francesco Rampa, ECDPM paper, 11 January 2021

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Sustainable food systemsDiscussion Papers (series)