Knowledge for better food systems

A Food Systems Approach To Healthy Food And Agriculture Policy

In this paper researchers recommend taking a broader "systems" approach to food policy in order to tackle public health issues as far-ranging as climate change and antibiotic use in food animal production. Three examples are given of a food systems approach to food policy: farm-to-school programs, incorporating sustainability into the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and antibiotic use in food animal production.


Food has become a prominent focus of US public health policy. The emphasis has been almost exclusively on what Americans eat, not what is grown or how it is grown. A field of research, policy, and practice activities addresses the food-health-agriculture nexus, yet the work is still often considered “alternative” to the mainstream. This article outlines the diverse ways in which agriculture affects public health. It then describes three policy issues: farm-to-school programming, sustainability recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and antibiotic use in animal agriculture. These issues illustrate the progress, challenges, and public health benefits of taking a food systems approach that brings together the food, agriculture, and public health fields.


Neff, R. A. Merrigan, K. Wallinga. D. (2015) A Food Systems Approach To Healthy Food And Agriculture Policy. Health Affairs, 2015; 34 (11): 1908 DOI: 10.1377/hlthaff.2015.0926

Read the full paper here, see a related article “Reducing Food Loss And Waste While Improving The Public’s Health” here and see further coverage here.

You can find related resources by browsing the following research library categories: theories, methods and tools, decision making tools, dietary guidelines, health issues, health policy, sustainable healthy diets, and lastly food and agriculture policy.

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North America

North America is the northern subcontinent of the Americas covering about 16.5% of the Earth's land area. This large continent has a range of climates spanning Greenland’s permanent ice sheet and the dry deserts of Arizona. Both Canada and the USA are major food producers and some of the largest food exporters in the world. Industrial farms are the norm in North America, with high yields relative to other regions and only 2% of the population involved in agriculture.

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