About food systems

What is a food systems approach?

A system can be described as a set of complex, non-linear things working together as part of a highly interconnected whole.

A food systems approach is essential to tackling both health and environmental challenges simultaneously. The approach takes a holistic and big picture view and understands the importance of the interdependent relationships between the actors, drivers and outcomes between each of the sectors below:

  • agriculture
  • storage
  • processing and manufacture
  • distribution
  • retail and consumption.

Because the food system is highly interconnected, this approach avoids unintended consequences from interventions in one part of the system adversely affecting another. For example, simply growing more vegetables for health that people don’t want to eat and that end up perishing.

There is a need for stronger coordination and integration to transform the UK food system both within and across these sectors:

  • across government by bringing together departments with responsibility for different parts of the food system to develop coherent policies
  • across academia by bringing together different disciplines to conduct systems based research
  • across industry by bringing together businesses working on healthy consumption and sustainable production.

In light of this food systems approach, this programme supports interdisciplinary research to:

  • define healthy and sustainable diets that are both marketable and culturally acceptable, based on the nutritional requirements of different groups in society
  • understand how to produce and manufacture nutritious foods to meet these diets in a safe and sustainable way
  • determine the combination of interventions across government, business and civil society that would deliver food system transformation.