The George Institute for Global Health

Healthy Food Healthy Planet

Lead Organization

The George Institute for Global Health

Sydney, State of New South Wales, Australia

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Averting environmental destruction and feeding ten billion people are two of the defining challenges for the century. Feeding the world’s population requires industrial scale food production but this is also the single greatest driver of environmental degradation. Additionally, the poor nutritional quality of many foods causes chronic disease among millions. Better food systems offer the single greatest prospect for enhancing human health and improving the environment. Absent are plausible ways of driving the scale of change required to address the size of the problem.We will define and implement practical new ways to transform the food system. We will generate detailed data describing the nutritional characteristics and production pathways for millions of foods, and make transparent the effects on human health and environmental degradation of each food company, each product line and each policy decision. Our program will empower communities, corporations and governments and drive wholesale change across the system.

Problem Statement

Poor-diet quality and environmental degradation leave few unaffected. Each year, unhealthy foods cause more premature death and disability than tobacco smoking, unsafe sex, drug use and alcohol consumption combined. Every day poor diets are raising the risks for millions more - harmful fats cause high cholesterol, excess salt drives up blood pressure and over-consumption of calories leads to obesity and diabetes. Another 800 million people do not get enough food and still more suffer micronutrient deficiencies. In parallel, food production systems are the single greatest driver of environmental degradation through greenhouse gas production, land degradation and loss of biodiversity. Business as usual will cause irreparable environmental damage to our planet and impact billions of people. The brunt of the problem is borne by the most disadvantaged in our communities.The underlying problem is a system failure. The food industry delivers products designed primarily to maximise the profitability of the corporations involved, absent the mechanisms required to control for the devastating unintended consequences. While the problem is widely understood by a broad range of actors, transformative and pragmatic solutions are absent. Working with stakeholders, we have identified an opportunity to drive transformative change using data, transparency and accountability. We will provide evidence and direction that will empower consumer voices, drive changes to industry strategies and have governments make decisions that prioritize human nutrition and planetary health. Underpinning the opportunity is the capacity to influence multiple points in the system and use market forces to drive change.

Solution Overview

Our solution will use detailed data about the nutritional quality and production characteristics of millions of foods to identify the points in the food system where action can have maximum impact. To create the best and the most opportunities, we will use our data with a broad range of stakeholders. At one end of the value chain, we will provide consumers with easy-to-use, point-of-sale information about the comparative healthiness and sustainability of foods to modify purchasing decisions and change consumer demand. At the same time, we will use the data to help governments identify opportunities to improve the characteristics of the foods most widely available, such as food subsidies and levies. In between, the data will support food industry actions to enhance the nutritional and environmental credentials of products, how they are labelled and how they are marketed.We will use the data extensively with consumer groups and media outlets to increase transparency and bring new competition to the system. Reports on the data will identify the successes and failures of individual nations, individual companies and individual food products bringing unprecedented accountability to the food system and those in control. Implementation will use an expanded network of activists and experts that will span 50 countries. Solutions will be tailored with local teams using local data to meet local needs and local opportunities. However, because we are changing the system, impacts will be community-wide and worldwide. Evaluation will be broad and continuous, with a focus on tracking changes to consumer behaviours

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Project Funders

  • Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Tradeh 2018 - 2019
  • Access to Nutrition Foundation 2017 - 2019
  • Woolworths 2017 - 2020

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