Launching today, the Food Systems Dashboard is designed to help decision makers understand their food systems and thus deliver better for people and the planet. With the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit a year off, the Dashboard will serve as a useful tool to improve food security, nutrition and the environment.
Gathering data from public and private sources, the Food Systems Dashboard paints a holistic picture of global, regional and national food systems. It maps the interconnections of our food systems across sectors, allows for comparisons between countries, identifies challenges and prioritises evidence-based actions to improve food systems.
The idea for this tool was crafted by Jessica Fanzo at Johns Hopkins University and Lawrence Haddad at Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) in 2018 when writing the UN High Level Panel of Experts on Food Systems and Nutrition report.
The Dashboard was developed by Johns Hopkins University and GAIN with collaborators at Harvard University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Agriculture-Nutrition Community of Practice.
A food system encompasses all the people and processes that deliver food from farm to fork. A well functioning food system is beneficial for the health of both people and planet.
Easy to navigate, the Dashboard is divided into the following three dimensions:
Describe food systems. The Dashboard describes food systems of 230+ countries and territories, using existing data for over 170 indicators, from more than 30 sources. The tool is the first of its kind to gather data from public and private sources in one place and include indicators beyond the nutrition sector – from agriculture, food prices, marketing, climate change to literacy.
Summarising key indicators for each country, the country profiles can help decision makers visualise the component parts of their food systems and how they affect diet and nutrition outcomes. This creates a food systems story for each country.
For example, Bangladesh’s country profile details key indicators for food supply chains, food environments, individual factors, consumer behaviour, diets and nutrition, and external drivers of food systems.
Diagnose food systems. How does the proportion of people employed in agriculture compare between countries? Which country is more dependent on cereal imports – Saudi Arabia or Zambia?
The Dashboard enables users to compare their food systems with those of other countries by region, income classification or food system typology (a classification of a country’s food system by its agricultural production practices, supply chains and food environments characteristics).
Decide on actions. The Dashboard will provide guidance on potential priority actions to improve food systems’ impacts on diets and nutrition. Actions could include policy and programme interventions, tools or investments, and recognises the actors involved in making the desired change.
A policymaker in the Ministry of Health can look at country-level data about people’s intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as nutrition and health outcomes such as high blood pressure, which may indicate a correlation between lower intakes of these nutritious foods and a higher prevalence of high blood pressure. The data can be compared across countries by region, food systems type, or income classification to inform public health policies to promote increased intake of these foods.
Policymakers would also be able to look at long-term average annual precipitation in their country and how this is changing over time in the face of climate change. This, paired with data on the percent of cultivated land equipped for irrigation, can help inform decisions how to best utilize their agricultural water sources to increase yields of key crops.
To assess its usability and utility, the Food Systems Dashboard will be piloted in Tanzania, Indonesia and a few other countries this year. The Dashboard will be continually updated with new data once available. The creators note that more and better data is required for diets, individual factors, consumer behaviour and food environments, as well as disaggregated data at sub-national levels.