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2 Empowering global nutrition with digital technology – a food systems perspective
  1. Dominic Crocombe1,2,
  2. Sara Roversi3,
  3. Daniele del Rio1,4,
  4. Kathy Martin5,
  5. Jaroslav Guzanic6,
  6. Padmaja Ravula7,
  7. Nitya Rao8,
  8. Nivedita Narain9,
  9. Ingrid Fromm10,
  10. Daniela Martini11,
  11. Alice Rosi4,
  12. Francesca Scazzina4,
  13. José Pereira Azevedo12,
  14. Fotini Tsofliou13,
  15. Sonigitu Ekpe1,
  16. Maryam Matar14,
  17. Meis Moukayed15,
  18. Yasmin Haddad16,
  19. Dionysia Lyra17,
  20. Ahlam El-Shikieri18,
  21. Wanja Nyaga1 and
  22. Sumantra Ray1,19,20
  1. 1NNEdPro Global Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health, Cambridge, UK
  2. 2Insititute of Liver and Digestive Health, University College London, London, UK
  3. 3Future Food Institute, Bologna, Italy
  4. 4Department of Food and Drugs, University of Parma, Parma, Italy
  5. 5Education and Research In Medical Nutrition Network (ERIMN), Brighton, UK
  6. 6Swiss Association for Cooperation on Nutrition Education, Chefs’ Manifesto, Switzerland
  7. 7International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Hyderabad, India
  8. 8School of International Development, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
  9. 9Professional Assistance for Development Action, New Delhi, India
  10. 10School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, Bern University of Applied Sciences, Bern, Switzerland
  11. 11Department of Food, Environmental and Nutritional Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy
  12. 12Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal
  13. 13Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, UK
  14. 14United Arab Emirates Genetic Diseases Association, Dubai, UAE
  15. 15School of Arts and Sciences, American University in Dubai, UAE
  16. 16My Pedia Clinic, Dubai, UAE
  17. 17International Center for Biosaline Agriculture, Dubai, UAE
  18. 18Faculty of Applied Medical Sciences, Talibah University, Al Madinah Al Munawarh, Saudi Arabia
  19. 19School of Biomedical Sciences, Ulster University at Coleraine, Coleraine, UK
  20. 20School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK


Modern food systems operate on a global scale, and many countries depend on imported food to feed their populations. The proportion of people eating according to their traditional dietary patterns is declining in most continents, with cheap ultra-processed foods becoming more easily available and infiltrating the food chains of even the hardest-to-reach corners of the world. At the same time, intensive farming methods, inequities in food distribution, and the high rate of food wastage raise concerns about the sustainability and environmental impact of food production at the scale required to feed the globe. International shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic and regional conflicts have a palpable effect on food production, storage and distribution and exacerbate many of these issues. For these reasons, food and nutrition insecurity is a major global concern.

At the 8th Summit, this sub-theme generated discussion on many of these issues, particularly their implications for nutrition and health. In some cases, digital technologies are being used to protect and enhance traditional farming and dietary practices. In India, we heard about the use of participatory film-making and a digital voice response system as tools to empower local communities to record and share traditional dietary knowledge and practices. On a larger scale, the use of blockchain technology for increasing transparency and traceability in the food chain could become commonplace. Other key discussions centred on how digital technologies are being harnessed to shape future food systems and how such shifts will depend upon the evolution of agriculture and ecology, human culture, education and communication, and the technologies that underpin and span these domains.

One of the NNEdPro’s flagship food-based projects is the Mobile Teaching Kitchen (MTK) initiative. First established in Indian slum communities, the MTK uses a microenterprise model to train local women to prepare nutritious traditional foods and, in turn, train others to do the same, thus providing education, employment and an income alongside potential health benefits. The 8th Summit included updates on the progress of this project. The MTK model is being replicated in Mexico and the USA, and strategies to utilise digital technology to magnify the impact of the model were explored. Other food-based initiatives such as ‘kid’s kitchens’, ‘digital kitchens’, and digital apps to assist individuals and families in choosing healthy food options were all initiatives that garnered further discussion.

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