Improved metrics and data are needed for effective food system policies in the post-2015 era

Improved metrics and data are needed for effective food system policies in the post-2015 era

Most low and middle income countries are burdened by persistent undernutrition as well as by rapidly growing overweight, obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases. It is widely accepted that agricultural and food system policies must make a greater contribution to enhancing diets and hence to improving nutrition if these challenges are to be addressed.

However, existing tools which measure the outcomes of agricultural and other food policy interventions relevant to nutrition capture only some elements of food systems, such as agricultural output, total food supply, and food prices. These provide a partial assessment of actual food and nutrition needs of vulnerable populations, dietary quality, or the drivers of food choices. Consequently, decision makers only have fragmented evidence on which policies and interventions work best to enhance food value chains for nutrition.

Since good evidence lies at the core of effective policy action, it is difficult for governments to intervene effectively when needs are poorly understood and impacts inadequately measured. New metrics are therefore needed to measure diet quality and sufficiency, as well as food system efficiency and sustainability, and the processes that link various points across food system domains.

Progress is needed in six key areas:

  • Improving the quality and quantity of data on food intake among different sectors of the population.
  • Reaching agreement on how to measure diet quality.
  • Developing metrics that measure women’s roles in dietary choices.
  • Designing metrics to measure the ‘food environment’, including how different food system domains are linked to, and interact with, the food environment in which dietary choices are made.
  • Devising metrics that measure the healthiness of food systems, all the way from agriculture through markets to people’s actual food consumption.
  • Developing metrics that measure people’s ability to access food of sufficient quantity and quality