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The Relevance of National Food Policies



Relevance of National Food Policies

Throughout history, insufficient food has remained a struggle for many all over the world. Nutrition exists through food security, a sanitary environment, health services, and proper care [1]. If adequate nutrition is not available, it can lead to malnutrition, overweight/obesity, and micronutrient deficiencies. Each has detrimental effects on health. Malnutrition can also cause large-scale problems, such as the economic development of a country [1]. Being overweight and obese can lead to general health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and strokes. Micronutrient deficiencies are caused by the lack of nutrient-rich foods and can lead to poor development and diet.


Insufficient food can harm those of all ages. For example, malnourished children do not develop fully. There can be gaps in their “full genetic potential in cognitive, reproductive and immune development” [1]. In 2013, at least one or more of these 3 nutritional burdens were present in every country [1]. Given the great impact that food insecurity has on the world, it is important to note the connection between food systems and the government. In an effort to decrease nutrient issues, food policies were created.


To help stimulate food production, the government increased the production of inexpensive food such as items with long shelf lives and high carbohydrates. With unhealthy food being both inexpensive and accessible, overweight citizens and obesity became inevitable [2].

Chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and several cancers became more common due to a generally unhealthy diet. Although the beginning of government intervention food policies helped with food security, other aspects of a nutritional diet have not been met [2].


Food policy now has the power to begin to reverse this, by implementing nutritional approaches with food manufacturers and distributors. Valuing nutrition directly, rather than indirectly through economy and trade.


Types of food policy interventions [2]:

Level: Local, city, state, or national government (can be implemented in any of these leveled areas).


Target: Consumer, organization, health system, production, and industry (creating policies within one specific area).

Domain: Education, point-of-purchase information, fiscal policies, food quality standards, environment changes, research, and innovation

Mechanism: Altering consumer preferences or choice, food formulations and food availability, and accessibility


Policy Examples For Each of the Above


Level:

1. A food policy intervention at the local level is zoning restrictions on fast food around schools [2]. This could make it harder for kids to get out of school and walk to a nearby option that may be an unhealthy option.

2. Building supermarkets.

3. Supporting produce vendors.

Target:

1. Health systems can create policies on preventative care and education on healthy diets. This can also be achieved by putting an emphasis on nutrition during regular visits.

2. Higher standards for vendors and workers in the food industry.

3. Industry standards, such as limits on trans fat, salt, and sugar.

Domain:

1. Food package information can be improved with policy. Forcing the company to display nutritional ingredients can make them feel pressured to lower ingredients such as sodium.

2. Monetary incentives and disincentives for junk food.

Mechanism:

1. Nutrition standards policies are implemented in “government offices, public schools, the military, food assistance programs, and other government-funded organizations” [2].


Although it may be easy to think of policies to improve food security and nutrition, government implementation is complex. Research and reach are crucial for turning evidence into policy action [2]. Plans based on evidence, experts, resources, and authority are required. Government sectors must split jurisdiction as well as costs and benefits. Food security and nutrition are a part of the prevention of chronic diseases that has a proven economic burden [2]. In order for the government and civilians to receive benefits from any food policies, they must have the governance and support from society as well as other stakeholders.


Stakeholders


The stakeholder position is important for promoting and supporting government policy. For example, academia should conduct research to apply to policy, monitor outcomes, engage with the community, etc [2]. The health care system can advocate for health system changes and engagement with the community [2]. Policymakers must also work with the food companies to use their expertise in marketing, distribution, innovation, etc., to create better policy as well.


Recommendations for Governments


It is clever that food security and adequate nutrition play significant roles in the well-being of citizens, trickling down to the economy and overall state of a country. Given this, there are many actions to be taken to begin policy change. It is crucial for governments to recognize that nutrition is a priority on every level up to global [2]. Multilevel approaches to policy are also the most effective. These are actions such as monetary incentives, food assistance, food standards, companies promoting healthy eating, incorporating food and nutrition into healthcare, and product labeling [2]. Policies should be made with the most up-to-date and accurate evidence for better decision-making. For this to be possible, an increase in support for food and nutrition research is necessary. Social and racial/ethnic disparities should be taken into account when making these changes. A leadership position to handle budgeting for policy should also be sought out. Finally, emphasizing the link between economic development and adequate nutrition for communities can be implemented [2].


A Look At the U.S. Food Policies


Dietary guidelines and food policies in the U.S. are updated every few years. This is based on new evidence and data showcasing outcomes of past policies. A 2005 study compared the dietary guidelines with the food supply in the country. Research has shown that the U.S. food supply did not equal the recommended dietary guidelines [1]. “The volume supplied surpasses the volume required by some two-thirds in the case of grains, and by half for both fats and sugar, while the volume of protein supplied is more than twice as high as the amount required.” [1] Oil supplies were also higher than needed, while fruit was less than the required amount. This indicates an imbalance between supply and demand, which leads to waste as well as an imbalanced diet. The study also found that the recommended dietary guidelines were outside of what is possible “within the planetary boundaries” [1].


To sum this all up, national food policies are important, but they also have room for improvement. Governance issues arise when trying to turn ideas into policies, which makes change slower and more complex. Food security and nutrition are two of the number one concerns that we should have globally. Thus, it should be better prioritized in every government system.



References

  1. Fanzo, J. (2016, December 01). Food Policies’ Roles on Nutrition Goals and Outcomes: Connecting of Food and Public Health Systems (Steier G. & K. Patel K., Eds.). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7123872/

  2. Mozaffarian, D., Angell, S. Y., Lang, T., & Rivera, J. A. (2018, June 13). Role of government policy in nutrition-barriers to and opportunities for healthier eating. Retrieved from https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2426


 


Contributors:

Author: Sophie Gangi

Editor: Kayjah Taylor

Health Scientist: Rayven Hall


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