Entries by UNSCN Secretariat

UNSCN COVID-19 Questionnaire

The UNSCN Secretariat has prepared a short questionnaire to understand the changes people are making in their everyday life due to the impact of COVID-19. The results will inform UNSCN publications which examine the consequences of COVID-19 on people’s food environments and look to help people adapt as well as possible.

You can take the questionnaire in English, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish; Arabic, Chinese and Russian will become available by the end of this week. It will only take 5 minutes of your time!

Results from this survey will be made available in compiled form at UNSCN.org.

The survey is open until Monday 24th of April 2020.

VIRTUAL LAUNCH EVENT – 2020 Global Food Policy Report: Building Inclusive Food Systems

7 April 2020
12:15 PM TO 01:15 PM EDT
This event will be online only. Watch online at IFPRI's event page

Food systems are critical to every aspect of people’s well-being, from what they eat to how they earn their livelihoods to their options for the future. IFPRI’s flagship report highlights the critical role that inclusive food systems can play in improving nutrition, creating employment and income-generating opportunities, and increasing empowerment of disadvantaged groups.



Overview: Johan Swinnen, Director General, IFPRI

Moderator: Rajul Pandya-Lorch, Director, Communications and Public Affairs, IFPRI


  • John McDermott, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH)
  • Rob Vos, Director, Markets, Trade and Institutions Division, IFPRI
  • Laura Zseleczky, Program Manager, IFPRI

Register here 

Ag2Nut discussion on COVID-19, food systems, and interaction with malnutrition

Thursday 2 April 2020
Time (1hour): 10:00a NY/Boston, 3:00p London, 4:00p Rome, 5:00p Addis, 7:30p Delhi

With COVID-19 dominating the news, is it a priority to think about agriculture, food systems and nutrition. 
With infections just starting to rise in Africa, where there is a major burden of malnutrition, the populations most affected may be different than what we have seen in higher income countries - primarily because malnutrition may leave people more vulnerable to severe illness and death. A critical concern is maintaining food supply and access for all. Lessons about resilience in food systems can already be seen from China - some encouraging, and some warnings to heed, about food supply in the shadow of potential input and labor shortages. 
What do leaders need to do to protect those vulnerable from malnutrition right now, and to protect food systems to ensure that all people can access the food we need over the coming weeks and months?
The Ag2Nut Community has organized a special panel followed by a discussion on this topic, co-sponsored with ANH Academy. UNSCN will also participate as a panellist.
The meeting will be hosted on Zoom (https://tufts.zoom.us/j/637610834). Participants can also call for audio only via local numbers here: https://tufts.zoom.us/u/al5CUTGNz and enter meeting ID: 637 610 834 #)


  • Tesfaye Hailu, Ethiopian Public Health Institute: brings the topic to the floor and outlines key questions and concerns, particularly focusing on Africa. 
  • Selena Ahmed, Montana State University: shares lessons learned from the current situation in China, where she researches food environments.
  • Will Masters, Tufts University: discusses economic aspects of how supply chains and markets could change and what can keep them functioning.
  • Denise Costa Coitinho, UN SCN: presents a summary of SCN's analysis of food environments disruptions by COVID-19, highlighting some resources and examples of actions taken to mitigate the consequences; and what UN agencies are proposing to respond to the crisis.
  • Moderator: Anna Herforth, Ag2Nut, will outline the reason for coming together, what we know about nutrition and disease interactions, and how we can use our discussion to act and speak with one voice.

UNICEF-WHO-The World Bank: Joint child malnutrition estimates — levels and trends – 2020 edition

The UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank inter-agency team update the joint global and regional estimates of malnutrition among children under 5 years of age each year. These estimates of prevalence and numbers affected for child stunting, overweight, wasting and severe wasting are derived for the global population as well as by regional groupings of United Nations (UN) regions and sub-regions, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), UNICEF, WHO and World Bank regions, as well as World Bank country-income group classifications.

Download the report

Other resources

World Public Health Nutrition Congress 2020

31 March - 2 April 2020
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre
Queensland Australia

Knowledge, Policy, Action in the Decade of Nutrition 2016-2025 
What is working or not? Where are the gaps? What needs more effort or change?

Held every 4 years, the World Public Health Nutrition Congress was established by the World Public Health Nutrition Association (WPHNA) to bring together the international public health nutrition sector for an international congress free from funding from conflicted sources. The Congress acts as a pathway to strengthen the knowledge base, partnerships and commitment for effective action to improve nutrition related health, particularly among vulnerable populations in the world.

The Congress was first held in Rio, Brazil in 2012 then in Cape Town, South Africa in 2016 and in 2020 the World Public Health Nutrition Congress will be brought to Australia for the first time and hosted by the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA).


Program outline

Call for Abstracts - deadline for submission Sunday 21 July 2019, at 11:59pm AEST



Food Environments in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Impacts and positive policy actions to deliver sustainable healthy diets for all

Last updated by the UNSCN Secretariat on 8th April

Food environments are rapidly changing

The current global pandemic of Coronavirus (COVID-19), and measures taken to reduce its spread, have disrupted food environments around the world. Never has a larger spotlight been placed on the ways people meet the food systems for getting the nutrition they, and their family need. Disarrangements in day-to-day food supply mechanisms and disturbances in various components of food systems are increasingly felt on an individual level.  

These disruptions to people’s food environments and restrictions to their personal freedom give even more reason to ensure that human rights are not being compromised in the long term. Everyone has the right to adequate food and the right to health. Realizing and protecting the human rights of every man, woman and child is essential at all times, including during times of crises.

As the pandemic spreads the interaction between people and the food system is changing at an unimaginable speed and taking on greater importance in everyday life. With strict rules placed on people's personal movement to limit the spread of COVID-19, shopping for food is one of the only points of contact with what people knew as normal life. Even so, supermarkets, grocers and markets have become a confronting barometer of the scale of the pandemic. Physical distancing measures are implemented, marketplaces are shut down, vendors are banned from selling, limits are imposed on the number of shoppers, long queues are encountered at points of food purchase and empty shelves serve as a sign of the coping mechanism many are adopting.

Unhealthy diets are the leading cause of ill-health. Without dedicated action on nutrition, all forms of malnutrition are likely to increase as a result of the pandemic’s impact on food environments. Financial hardships, reduced physical activity, and altered purchasing patterns favoring products with longer shelf life and often poorer nutrition profiles can lead to higher levels of food insecurity, undernutrition, and overweight/ obesity.

Food environment disruptions are the result of many more changes than those observed at the point of sale. Both external and personal dimensions impact on people’s food environments. External dimensions include food availability, prices, vendors- while personal dimensions include geographical access, affordability, convenience and desirability. 

Figure 1. Possible impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on food environments

Source: adapted from Turner et al,  Concepts and critical perspectives for food environment research: A global framework with implications for action in low- and middle-income countries, available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211912418300154?via%3Dihub

 Specific examples of positive policy actions to mitigate changes and improve food environments  

Many governments at all levels, as well as civil society organizations and the private sector, are already applying positive policy actions to protect food environments. The objective is to try and adapt to unavoidable changes and support sustainable healthy diets for all.

Some examples of actions taken are detailed below:

External Food Environment Domains

  • Promote the smooth and secure flow of food trade in support of food security and nutrition;
  • Support and protect smallholder farmers and their value chains/ market access;
  • Support the continuation of planting and harvesting cycles to prevent agricultural production disruptions
  • Utilize Food Based Dietary Guideline’s (FBDG) which include sustainability criteria to inform positive action by all stakeholders throughout the food system- from guiding agricultural and food production strategies, to informing policy makers priorities and promoting sustainable healthy diets;
  • Support local food systems, through linking them with major food supply chains;
  • Monitor food prices, food security and malnutrition indicators;
  • Adopt subsidies and taxes which promote the purchasing and consumption of nutritious foods based on food based dietary guidelines (FBDG);
  • Strengthen and adapt social protection programmes in light of price fluctuations, income losses and nutritional needs to protect the right to food for all, leaving no one behind;
  • Include food system and food supply chain actors as essential services to ensure availability, while protecting workers with sanitary measures;
  • Upkeep of food fortification programmes;
  • Support major food providers to undertake needs-based purchasing that ensures the availability of basic food items, including fresh fruits and vegetables.

Personal Food Environment Domains

  • Adapt the delivery of social protection programmes to improve accessibility and affordability in a manner that complies with movement and crowd restrictions, harnesses volunteers and creates employment opportunities;
  • Explore food rationing systems based on health, nutrition, equity and decency that protects the right to food for all
  • Use FBDG’s as a guide to the promotion of sustainable healthy diets and to guide policy actions throughout the food system
  • Strengthen nutrition education and messaging to protect breastfeeding and promote nutritious food products, dispel myths, encourage healthy cooking techniques and place emphasis on food safety and waste reduction in line with the latest nutritional advice;
  • Invest in, scale-up and explore digital and other innovative and solidary approaches for food provision and grocery shopping platforms to enhance convenience; reach vulnerable populations; and improve wholesale markets, smallholder farmers and local producers’ access to larger points of sale and consumers;
  • Support local government level action to strengthen food supply and food environments – including those that look to improve accessibility through home delivery of food for vulnerable populations and create employment opportunities.

Policy actions during the COVID-19 should be human rights based – aiming to protect every person’s right to food, reducing inequalities and ensuring even the most vulnerable groups needs are met, leaving no one behind.

Nutritional advice during the COVID-19 Pandemic

 Nutritional advice does not change because of the pandemic, but it does take on added urgency:

  • Consult trustworthy information sources such as UN agencies and government health/ nutrition platforms.
  • A healthy dietary pattern based on national or regional FBDG which is diverse and abundant with fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, and seeds; plain water, modest amounts of animal source foods and minimal in amounts of processed meats is important to ensure all bodily functions work well, including immunity.
  • Unhealthy diets, leading to overweight and obesity, are the leading cause of ill health and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including diabetes, heart disease, cancer and chronic respiratory disease. Unhealthy diets are also a primary cause of poor control of NCDs and resulting adverse health outcomes. People with NCDs are at a heightened risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19.
  • Watch your intake of fats, sugar, and salt. Many people in times of high stress, use foods high in fat, sugar and salt as a comfort, which can lead to over eating and weight gain.
  • Faced with fear and uncertainty it is natural to be tempted by tales of miracle foods. No food, drink or dietary pattern can provide protection from, or cure infection by COVID-19.
  • Food safety is crucial to limit both the spread of COVID-19 and exposure to other illnesses. Practice handwashing with soap before and after grocery shopping, handling, preparing and consuming food.
  • Prevent food waste by only purchasing what you and your family need and following the 9 easy tips to fight food waste.
  • Practice solidarity. Avoid panic purchasing and enjoy home-cooked meals. Where possible and safe, help the vulnerable with their food purchases and support local food producers and vendors.
  • Breastfeeding protects newborns from getting sick and also helps protect them throughout their infancy and childhood. Breastfeeding is particularly effective against infectious diseases because it strengthens the immune system by directly transferring antibodies from the mother. Women with COVID-19 can continue to breastfeed if they practice respiratory hygiene during feeding.

Working towards a healthier, more nutritious future

The current COVID-19 generated food environment disruption poses a huge global challenge, but also an opportunity. Mitigating its consequences with collaborative solutions, solidarity and reinforcement of local food systems, may open up and lead the way towards a sustainable transformation to  resilient and sustainable food systems with healthy nutrition at their core. FBDG form a useful tool to guide this transformation. People are searching for direction and reassurances in their food environments that realize the right to food for every man, woman and child. Now is the time to demonstrate the need for, and the power and possibility of sustainable healthy diets. 

Overall actions and recommendations by the UN to protect health and nutrition

UN agencies and their partner organizations are continuously scaling up action and information to protect people’s health and nutrition in this time of crisis (see a full list of resources here).


Take our short questionnaire on the impacts of COVID-19 on our everyday life. It will only take 5 minutes of your time and it is available in several languages! It is open until Friday 24 April 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting people’s food environments: a resource list on Food Systems and Nutrition responses

The current global outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) has disrupted food systems around the world. Food environments are where people meet the food system. Around the world people’s food environments are rapidly changing in both their external dimensions – food availability, prices, vendors- as well as personal dimensions – geographical access, affordability, convenience and desirability.  These rapid food environment changes are influencing the consumers’ dietary practices and can lead to a deterioration in both individual, and country level,nutritional and health status. 

People, and their health and nutrition status, are what counts. Sustainable healthy diets that contain sufficient fruits and vegetables are crucial in protecting people’s immunity. Particularly for those at risk of, or suffering from food insecurity and those with pre-existing non-communicable diseases who are at a heightened risk of becoming severely ill with the virus.

The work of UN agencies and partner organizations to promote nutrition and healthy food systems during the pandemic is continually expanding and strengthening. Contributing to the coronavirus pandemic response, the UNSCN has compiled a list of available resources and key readings with a focus on nutrition and food systems. This list will be continually updated and expanded as more resources become available. 

Click to download a PDF version of this list. (Updated June 3rd)





  • The Global Child Nutrition Foundation
    - The GCNF website provides up to date insights into the country level impacts and mitigation efforts to protect school aged children from malnutrition related to the COVID-19 outbreak.


- Nutrition Advice

- Noncommunicable Disease


    NutritionI COVID-19: a knowledge dissemination tool to share programmatic guidance, position papers, technical notes, and emerging research and evidence being developed by UNICEF and its partners 

Articles and blog posts providing insights into nutrition and food systems in the response to COVID-19

Relevant Networks, Knowledge Hubs and CoPs

  • Scaling up Nutrition (SUN)- COVID-19 and Nutrition: a knowledge hub for members of the SUN Movement that shares articles and updates which shed light on important links between COVID-19 and nutrition, hunger, health and food systems. SUN COVID-19 and Nutrition Information Note and Key Messages.

  • SDG2 Advocacy Hub- SDG2 & COVID-19 Reading List: The SDG2 Advocacy Hub brings together NGOs, advocacy groups, civil society, the private sector and UN agencies to share expertise, ideas, and to collaborate on campaigns to achieve SDG2. The Secretariat has pulled together a number of thought pieces highlighting the impact of COVID-19 on food, food systems and more.

  • Nutrition Connect: this initiative mobilises knowledge, share experiences, and stimulate dialogue on public private engagements (PPE) for nutrition. A special section on COVID-19 has been created to bring together news and resources related to the risks, responses and impact of COVID-19 on food systems and nutrition.
  • Agriculture-Nutrition COP (Ag2Nut): Join the community to connect with a global network of professionals whose work focuses on the intersection of agriculture and nutrition. Webinars discussions about COVID-19, food systems, and interaction with malnutrition are planned for early April.

  • Food for the Cities : Join the community to get in touch with a large group of practitioners, researchers, professors, urban and rural community leaders, technicians and professionals in diverse agency settings sharing ways in which communities, cities and national governments are organizing to address enormous economic and social transformations (in the food system) as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Agriculture, Nutrition and Health (ANH) Academy: this is a global research network in agriculture and food systems for improved nutrition and health to serve as a platform for learning and sharing. They offer an open-access map of experiences, perspectives, opportunities and questions from researchers around the world about the impact of COVID-19 and other health emergencies on food systems, agriculture and nutrition.

  • The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) is curating a special series of blogposts analyzing the impacts of COVID-19 on national and global food and nutrition security, poverty and development.
  • SFS Programme statement on the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis and food systems. Read about key considerations for our food systems during this unprecedented crisis.
  • International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD): a commentary that takes stock of emergency measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19 and provides governments with options for avoiding a surge of investor-state claims challenging those measures.
  • The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) has taken stock of the past 100 days amid the global pandemic, with a new communiqué on COVID-19 and the crisis in food systems. What are the symptoms and causes of this food crisis? Why are we in the midst of this perfect storm? What can be done immediately to avert more damage to society and the economy? And what are the structural changes we now need to protect people and planet? The report is available in EN, FR and SP.
  • CARE's COVID 19, Food and Nutrition Security, and Gender Equality examines how COVID19 will especially challenge women and their food and nutrition security. It also shows women can be a part of the solution if they have a seat at the table and a greater voice in decisions.