Sustainable Healthy Diets through Food Systems Transformation (SHiFT)


Food systems are not providing healthy, safe, affordable, and desirable foods for all. Healthy diets are unaffordable for 3 billion people, disproportionately affecting women and children. Poor quality diets cause malnutrition and 11 million premature adult deaths each year. Consumption of unsafe foods is responsible for 600 million foodborne illnesses and nearly 500,000 deaths yearly, mostly in low- and middle-income countries.

Food demand and dietary patterns are rapidly evolving due to urbanization, changes in income, women’s employment, and developments in technology, food marketing, and public policy. These changes encourage shifts that promote ready-to-eat, convenient, cheap, ultra-processed foods.

Food systems must be urgently transformed and we must better understand and shape consumer demand towards sustainable healthy diets. This transformation can be challenging since issues caused by the misalignment of the goals of government, private sector, and civil society often impede change. A further challenge is the absence of research and tools to guide the transformation required to achieve sustainable healthy diets.


This Initiative aims to identify effective policy options, strengthen capacity, and develop robust metrics and tools to guide decision-making that leads to transforming food systems that promote and support consumption of sustainable healthy diets for all and improve livelihoods, gender equity, and social inclusiveness.

This will be accomplished by:

  • Documenting the drivers of food choices and identifying a set of policies and innovations to shape food environments to help consumers make healthier, safer, and environmentally sustainable food choices.
  • Developing, evaluating, and building policies and innovations to help deliver sustainable healthy diets, gender equity, and social inclusion.
  • Developing methods to address trade-offs in interests, outcomes, or impacts occurring in food systems transformation and identifying solutions to foster adoption of scalable innovation packages.
  • Generating solutions to help food system actors incentivize production, improve delivery, and enable consumption of sustainable healthy diets and address barriers preventing their uptake and implementation.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

  1. In eight target countries, food system stakeholders are made aware of, understand, and are interested in — and in two of these countries are implementing — scalable evidence-based interventions and policies to increase the demand for healthy sustainable diets and to improve the ability of enterprises and informal businesses to deliver healthy, safe, and affordable foods, and maintain or increase decent employment and income opportunities.
  2. In eight target countries, increased awareness, a better understanding, and acknowledgement among stakeholders of the importance of addressing existing frictions and barriers that lock food systems into undesirable trajectories, leading to clear interests to address the barriers identified.
  3. A decision support tool for trade-off scenarios and analysis is developed, tested, and applied in at least four countries, contributing to raised awareness and improved capacity of food system stakeholders to navigate potential trade-offs emerging from food system interventions and policies.
  4. In at least two countries, active involvement of key stakeholders in identification, analysis, and debate around a set of transformative pathways, to establish consultative processes exploring ways these pathways can be implemented.



Improved diet quality and safety, and an increase in the number of people in eight target countries who demand and can afford (by 50 million) and consume (by 3 million) a sustainable healthy diet, thereby contributing to reducing the burden of undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, diet-related non-communicable diseases, and foodborne illnesses.


Evidence provided and solutions identified on how stakeholders can enhance employment and income for the poor, while mitigating trade-offs between delivering healthy and affordable foods and achieving jobs and income goals in diverse contexts.


Evidence generated to address unequal access to healthy diets, employment, and income and the inequitable processes and policies that create them, while focusing on poverty, gender, and youth, and on how aspects of marginalization interact in different contexts.


Evidence generated to promote the uptake of practices and technologies to increase the efficient distribution of food and reduce food loss in the food environment, thereby contributing to overall climate adaptation goals.


Sustainable healthy diets stimulate consumer demand for sustainably produced foods. This generates a secondary impact area by contributing to demand-pull for nature-positive shifts in the production system with a focus on smallholder farmers.


For more details, view the full preliminary outline
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Header photo: A villager topping a pot in Malawi. Photo by IFPRI.