FAO and partners launch digital food policy dashboard tool
The tool is designed to help decision makers understand their food systems, identify their levers of change, and decide which ones to act upon.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and The Johns Hopkins Alliance for a Healthier World have launched a new online food policy tool designed to help decision makers.
The Food Systems Dashboard is a holistic resource intended for policymakers, non-governmental organisations, businesses, civil society leaders, and other actors to enable timely visualisation of national food systems, understand the interconnections across multiple sectors, perform comparisons with other countries, identify key challenges, and prioritise actions.
“What struck us back in 2017 while working on the UN High Level Panel of Experts on Food Systems and Nutrition Report was the lack of accessible, organised, quality-checked information on food systems. Without that data, it’s difficult to identify the best evidence-based actions that could improve food systems,” said Johns Hopkins Global Food Ethics and Policy Program Director, Jessica Fanzo. “It was really important to us, given the level of complexity and interconnections inherent to food systems, that the data be presented in a way that is easily usable – and that’s what the Dashboard does. Now decision makers have easy access to both data and to policy advice that is specific to their situations.”
The Dashboard houses food systems of more than 230 countries and territories by bringing together data for over 170 indicators from 35 sources. It aims to enable stakeholders to compare their food systems with those of other countries, and will provide guidance on potential priority actions to improve food systems’ impacts on diets and nutrition.
“The Dashboard has the potential to halve the time required to gather the relevant data, helping public agencies and private entities to grasp the three Ds more rapidly: Describe national food systems, Diagnose them to prioritise areas for action, and then Decide on the action to take based on plausible interventions that have been tried in other countries,” said GAIN’s Executive Director and World Food Prize winner, Lawrence Haddad.
For example, a policymaker in the Ministry of Health can look at country-level data about people’s intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as nutrition and health outcomes such as high blood pressure, which may indicate a correlation between lower intakes of these nutritious foods and a higher prevalence of high blood pressure. The data can be compared across countries by region, food systems type, or income classification to inform public health policies to promote increased intake of these foods.
Policymakers would also be able to look at long-term average annual precipitation in their country and how this is changing over time in the face of climate change. This, paired with data on the percent of cultivated land equipped for irrigation, aims to help inform decisions such as how to best utilise their agricultural water sources to increase yields of key crops.
“FAO is contributing its extensive expertise in making complex food systems information more transparent and accessible to this project and looks forward to further collaboration with our partners and beyond to secure the success of this initiative,” said FAO Director-General, Qu Dongyu.
“The Dashboard is open to all and will foster much needed cooperation in transforming our food systems. With the threats and opportunities presented by COVID-19, we need more collaboration between stakeholders who care about hunger, nutrition, livelihoods, climate, biodiversity, and sustainable natural resource use. Working together and sharing information is also essential in order to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, which are now just 10 years away,” Dongyu added.