Dr Uma Lele

How to make nutritious diets more affordable, accessible and adequate

Dr. Uma Lele


Even before COVID-19, prospects for achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for nutrition were bleak. Progress in areas such as poverty reduction and child mortality reduction has slowed, and COVID-19 has caused additional hardship. The problem is most concentrated in Africa and South East Asia. A shift towards greater consumption of cheap junk food is increasing problems such as obesity and non-communicable diseases like cancer and heart disease. To address the situation, both the supply and demand side of the food system need to be addressed. Productivity growth is linked to investment, including spending on infrastructure, developing financial markets, telecommunications and policies on trade dependence and protectionism. Trade dependence varies a lot around the world, with Europe importing 29% of food, the USA 10% and India just 3%. Small enterprises such as cold storage are helping to support innovation in many places. Concentration and multinationalization, plus branding is driving a close connection between producers and consumers. Drivers towards healthy food systems are complex, and far more resources are needed to achieve the goal of making nutritious food in adequate quantities accessible to all.