14 Apr 2016

Norway and Nutrition

Sudhvir Singh EAT Forum

Norway has been a pioneer in the field of nutrition, but momentum has been lost in recent times. Whilst Norway has consistently been one of the top contributors to overall global development assistance, in the field of nutrition it has been investing less than $1 million per annum. Norway is not a signatory to the Nutrition for Growth (N4G) compact nor the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) donor network, and domestically Norway is encountering a rising incidence of obesity. With that as a background, the Norwegian Development Agency, Norad, hosted the national launch of the 2015 Global Nutrition Report on March 9 at an event entitled “Food Security and Nutrition: More than two sides of the same coin?”

Discussing the local context, Professor Liv Elin Torheim pointed to Norwegian research to describe why nutrition may have lost the spotlight. Currently, there are challenges associated with quantifying nutrition results, there is a dispersal of nutrition related activities amongst several different sectors, and precedence is taken by other competing issues. On a positive note, State Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Hanne Blåfjelldal, acknowledged the importance of integrating agriculture, nutrition and food policies, citing the example of the recent conference “Måltidsglede” (Happy meal), which was co-organised by three government ministries.

Nutrition within policy globally

Keynote speaker Lawrence Haddad highlighted case studies of international progress as well as the profound return on investment associated with certain nutrition interventions - $16 for every $1 invested. Isatou Jallow from NEPAD described how the 2014 Malabo Declaration represents an ambitious political commitment by all governments of the African Union in regards to nutrition. Felix P. Phiri, Director at the Malawian Ministry of Health, added that there is a need for more local field research to inform nation-specific recommendations. A consensus emerged among all speakers that nutrition needs to be better incorporated into other development initiatives, such as health, agriculture and education programmes.

EAT’s perspective

The EAT Foundation was privileged to be part of the launch. EAT takes a holistic perspective to the integrated challenges of nutrition, public health, food security and environmental sustainability by bringing together expertise from the research, business and policy communities. An important contribution of the GNR is the acknowledgment of the interconnections between climate change and nutrition, as well as the need for climate change to be included in national nutrition plans and vice versa. There is a good reason why these linkages are important: unhealthy diets are not only the biggest risk factor for disease globally, but today’s global food system is the single most important driver of climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental damage. In turn, climate change and extreme weather events adversely affect crop yields and long term food security, a vicious cycle. Given these interconnections, EAT draws attention to the need for the full implementation of SDG 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

As a firm proponent of breaking down silos to inform multi-sector solutions, EAT strongly supports the GNR’s 10 inclusive Calls to Action. In particular, EAT identifies with:

  • Action 7 Actively Build Alliances between Nutrition and Climate Change Communities around Common Goals: An often under-recognised partner who can bridge the gap between the nutrition agenda and the climate change agenda are cities. EAT is involved in supporting city networks to develop and share best practice on supply chains, urban infrastructure and policy measures to ensure access to healthy, affordable and sustainably produced food to a growing urban population.
  • Action 8 Develop Indicators of the Impact of Food Systems on Nutrition and Health Outcomes: There is an urgent need for better indicators in this field and the EAT science team is researching novel metrics that assess the impact of food systems on both nutrition and environmental outcomes.
  • Action 9 Build a Greater Shared Understanding of the Roles and Responsibilities of Business in Nutrition. Ensuring that the private sector seizes business opportunities associated with healthy and sustainable food is a core priority of EAT. This approach is well exemplified by the pilot project EAT, MOVE, SLEEP, which uses the star power of athletes to provide education on nutrition, mental health and physical activity to adolescents, and promotes healthy food stadiums. The project involves a novel partnership connecting industry (food retailer BAMA), the Football Association of Norway, EAT, and researchers and advocates at the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH) and the Norwegian Cancer Society.

The Norwegian launch of the 2015 GNR emphasised how Norway is well placed to re-emerge as a nutrition leader. In addition to increasing nutrition aid, Norway can better integrate nutrition into existing development programmes, and be a champion for the broad role that food systems can play in addressing both nutrition and environmental challenges simultaneously.

We look forward to hosting the launch of the 2016 Global Nutrition Report at the EAT Stockholm Food Forum in June.