Blog Post

Toward the Goal of Healthy Diets for All: 2024 Global Food Policy Report Released

The world’s food security challenges are becoming increasingly complex. In many countries, populations now face a double burden of malnutrition: both undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies and overweight/obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs). These burdens are being further exacerbated by the strain placed by climate change on food supplies and nutritional content.

Addressing these challenges in sustainable, inclusive ways will take strong political will, sound governance, and a multi-sectoral food systems approach, according to the 2024 Global Food Policy Report (GFPR).

The global data on malnutrition are grim. As many as 783 million people worldwide experienced hunger in 2022, while 2-3 billion people could not afford a healthy diet. The report finds that in 2022, less than half of the world’s population consumed a diet that included enough fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-dense foods. During the same period, 43 percent of adults worldwide were overweight and 16 percent were obese. Diet-related NCDs contributed to more than 73 percent of deaths globally in 2022.

Food system transformation through a nutrition lens provides one framework for approaching these challenges, says the GFPR. This framework includes  setting realistic, measurable goals and coordinating among various food system actors to address both demand-side and supply-side policies.

On the demand side, shifting individuals’ and communities’ preferences toward more nutritious food items will play an important role in transforming food systems. National dietary guidelines, education programs, and labeling, advertising policies, taxes on unhealthy foods, and investment in the production of nutritious foods can provide guidance on appropriate healthy diets, while nutrition-sensitive agriculture and social protection programs can enhance the effectiveness of these policies. Any action to support healthier food choices, however, needs to take into account local contexts, supply constraints, and cultural, social, and economic structures. The report emphasizes the need for policies to be gender-sensitive in order to improve outcomes for both women and children.

For individuals and households to choose more nutritious foods, they need to be able to afford those foods. Thus, the unaffordability of healthy diets for large swathes of the global population is another key demand-side factor to address. The GFPR estimates that in order to give the world’s diet-poor population the cash needed to afford a healthy diet, it would cost a minimum of $1.3 trillion every year. Policies to lower food prices and speed up pro-poor economic growth could put a sizeable dent in this number. Such policies could include targeted social protection programs, investing in agricultural production aimed at nutrient-dense foods and in transportation and logistics infrastructure.

On the supply side, there is a clear need to increase production of nutritious foods, particularly plant-based foods that provide both health benefits and place lower burden on the environment. This will help increase the availability, accessibility, and affordability of healthy diets. Actions to enhance agricultural production include investing in crop diversity and promotion of production of whole grains and local “orphan crops” and adopting food fortification and biofortification during the cropping and processing nodes of the food value chain.

In lower and middle-income countries where consumption of meat, fish eggs, and dairy remains well below what constitutes a healthy diet, policies should focus on increasing livestock production and market efficiency, as well as on boosting overall household incomes to make these and other nutritious foods more affordable. Enhancing the safety of these food products is also critical, particularly in informal markets. In countries where animal food products are overconsumed (mostly high-income countries), policymakers should focus on better research and public education surrounding the impacts of these products on both human health and environmental sustainability.

Looking across this broad range of policy options and targeting the most appropriate interventions to local and national contexts will clearly take strong governance and multi-sectoral coordination. The GFPR calls for the engagement not only of governmental actors but also of the private sector and grassroots citizens’ groups. Increasing transparency and accountability in both the private and public sectors will also help establish a stronger enabling environment for effective and sustainable food and nutrition security policies.


Sara Gustafson is a freelance communications consultant.