Healthy food systems for healthier diets

Vietnam is in the process of providing the food essential for health and growth. Although the Vietnamese cuisine seems healthy at first side, however there is an upward trend towards either too little (with low quality) or too much (too much salt/sugar).

It is said that, currently Vietnam is facing the triple burden of malnutrition in Vietnam: (Chronic) undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight. Food systems, encompassing all stage in post-harvesting from production to consumption can support the access to wholesome and affordable food.

The workshop ‘Food systems for healthier diets’ was a collaboration of CIAT and Wageningen UR and led by IFPRI. The workshop was an element of A4NH phase 2 Flagship Program. The workshop attendees consisted of among others research institutes, non-profit organisation, governmental bodies and private sector. The main aim of the workshop was to develop a common understanding and perspective and to identify and review key drivers of food system transformation and diet improvements in Vietnam.

Several keynote speakers were invited to share their thoughts on the different topics in the food systems and healthy diets area. Fresh Studio gave a presentation about the role of the private sector in Vietnam towards a sustainable and healthier food system. By illustrating several examples of Fresh Studios’ work along the value the significant involvement of the private sector was provided.

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Marion Klaver, 15th of September 2016
Workshop on Food Systems for Healthier Diets – A4NH, Hanoi

Nutrition sensitive agriculture – Looking through a nutrition lens

Vietnam is in the process of providing the food necessary for health and growth. While nutritional food is essential in a daily diet, food systems and nutritional intake are changing. The trend in Vietnam is too little-too bad (low nutritional status and low quality) or too much-too sweet/fat.

ACIAR and University of Adelaine organized a small discussion workshop on the 1st and 2nd of December 2014 with the title ‘Nutrition sensitive agriculture- looking through a nutrition lens’. Nutrition sensitive agriculture aims to maximize the impact of nutrition outcomes for the poor, while minimizing the unintended negative nutritional consequences of agricultural interventions and policies on the poor, especially women and young children (World Bank, 2013).

The workshop assembled researchers, development specialists and agencies working in the area of measuring nutritional impact, food security, diet diversity and consumption to share current research findings, indicators and approaches.

Several keynote speakers were invited to share their thoughts on the different nutrition topics in different areas.

  • According to Ms. Wendy Umberger – Director Global Food Studies and A/Professor Agricultural and Food Economics, University of Adelaide – are food systems changing. The transformation of traditional and modern retailing may impact the health of society. She examined the relationship between food market environment, supermarket penetration, dietary changes, diet related diseases among urban Indonesian households and likely impacts of modern retailing on smallholder farmers in Indonesia.
  • Ms. Ellen Goddard – Professor and Co-operative Chair, Agricultural Marketing and Business, University of Alberta – discussed the enhancement food and nutrition security during a study on household home gardening in India. She pointed to the effect of growing fruit and vegetables by households, which doesn’t imply an improvement of the nutritional quality of the diets.
  • Mr. Nguyen Dinh Quang – UNICEF – presented results from NNSSS and MICS research on the nutritional status of women & children in Vietnam. In his presentation he highlighted the growing issue of stunting, an indicator of nutritional status, among children below 5 years and the disparity among rural regions.
  • Ms. Sigrid Wertheim-Heck – Marketing and BD director of Fresh Studio – is working on dietary topics over the last years and highlighted the circumstance in urban Vietnam: the first impression of nutritious intake seems decent; however the trend is two sides 1) not having enough or 2) not eating enough of the right products. Fresh Studio showed that 70% of Hanoi population is facing potentially dietary issues and the access towards healthy and safe diet is limited in terms of income, action radius and knowledge. The challenge is how to introduce healthy food into the daily diet.
Ms. Sigrid Wertheim-Heck presenting about: Nutrition vulnerability past or future?
  • Ms. Maria Yvette Reyes and Mr. Nguyen An Vu – World Vision Vietnam – spoke about how to demonstrate impact on specific child well-being aspirations, implying that every child should enjoy good health, should be educated for live, feel love and be able to express love and is protected and participating. Integrated community based meetings of caregivers including among others interactive games about hygiene, child care, nutrition, feeding practices, regular child growth monitoring. The positive impact of interventions with nutrition community clubs was supported by Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuyet Mai – Vietnamese Women’s Union. VWU is working with 755 community clubs in more than 30 areas in Vietnam among others with Unilever’s program to empower women.

Where to from here?

Investments have to be made to develop modules. Vietnam is a good starting place, since a lot of good national data is available (e.g. World vision, NIN, Unicef) and the capacity is there to measure the data in order to develop modules, to check the robustness of different nutrition methods and to create interventions to meet the challenges.

A fruitful platform where lessons learned were shared and future initiatives and nutritional interventions collaboration were made.

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