The newly released 2016 Food Sustainability Index (FSI), developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) with the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) Foundation, ranks countries on food system sustainability based off three pillars: food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture, and nutritional challenges. The index, presented at the 7th International Forum on Food and Nutrition in Milan in December 2016, aims to encourage policy makers to place food and its production issues as high priority items in their policy agendas. According to the FSI, The world population is projected to reach 8.1 billion by 2025. The vast majority of the growth, 95 percent, will come from developing countries, many of which are dealing with the double burden of hunger and rising obesity. Meanwhile, climate change is presenting new challenges to the agriculture sector. By highlighting performance of different countries and identifying best practices, the index establishes a comparable benchmark for leaders around the world to reference and measure their progress in establishing a sustainable food system. According to the authors, “The FSI is a tool for policymakers and experts to orient their action, for students to be educated, and for the public to conscientiously adjust their behavior for the food of our health and our planet.”
The index analyzed the 20 countries in the G20, which maintain the largest economies and contain two-thirds of the global population, as well as five nations from regions otherwise unrepresented, using 58 different indicators to measure sustainability. FSI identified France, Japan, and Canada as the top scoring countries. The top score earner, France, maintains a holistic policy response to food waste and nutrition issues. For example, French supermarkets are required to donate excess food and tax incentives are in place to discourage unhealthy food consumption.
The accompanying white paper, Fixing Food, highlights reforms countries could take to advance a more sustainable food system. Authors advise developing countries to use institutional and infrastructure reform to improve sustainable agriculture practices. “Including more transparent land rights, greater access to finance…and stronger infrastructure for storage, transport, and logistic, can promote greater efficiency,” write authors of the report. Policy options to address nutritional challenges include public education campaigns, tax measures on unhealthy foods, and restrictions on junk food advertising to children.
Also, the EIU and BCFN Foundation created City Monitor, a city-level database and evaluation tool for urban food systems. City Monitor applies sets of quantitative and qualitative indicators, such as child obesity rates and quality of urban farming initiatives, to assess and understand the dynamics of urban food systems. Together, City Monitor and the FSI provide city and national level benchmarking tools to help leaders take action on food production, nutrition, and food waste issues.