Special Issue "Advancing Healthy Food Environments for Sustainable Diets in a Changing World"

A special issue of Foods (ISSN 2304-8158). This special issue belongs to the section "Food Security and Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Selena Ahmed
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Food and Health Lab, Sustainable Food Systems Program, Department of Health and Human Development, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA
Interests: Sustainable Food Systems; Biodiversity; Global Change; Crop Quality; Food Environments; Food Security
Prof. Shauna Downs
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Urban-Global Public Health, School of Public Health, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08854, USA
Interests: Global Public Health; Health Policy; Sustainable Food Systems; Food Environments; Food Security

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We find ourselves in a unique time with immense challenges of global change, from climate change to public health crises such as COVID-19 and dietary transitions. These factors of global change are exacerbating existing food system challenges in supporting human and planetary health. Undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, and obesity afflict every nation, while strong evidence links diets to chronic disease. Concurrently, food production places greater stress on ecosystems compared to all other human activities while being critically dependent on ecosystem services. The food system vulnerabilities being elucidated by global change are highlighting the urgent need for food system transformation towards enhanced sustainability and resilience.

A sustainable diets approach is increasingly being promoted in recognition of the linkages between the environment, food, and health. Alongside shifts toward consumption of healthy foods, sustainable diets also consider the ecological and socioeconomic dimensions linked to dietary choices, such as biodiversity, ecosystem services, greenhouse gas emissions, equity, food traditions, and food sovereignty. In order to support sustainable diets, a consumer’s food environment must empower sustainable dietary choices. The food environment is the consumer interface of the food system that influences the availability, affordability, convenience, and desirability of foods. Global change, including climate change, land-use change, shifts in markets and policies, and global pandemics such as COVID-19, contributes to food environment transitions that are associated with dietary and nutrition transitions. As the food environment is a key systemic driver of dietary choice, policies and programs are called for to support food environments that promote sustainable diets.

This Special Issue explores food environments, sustainable diets, and linkages between the two in the context of global change. We invite contributions that explore the following questions as well as related themes:

  • How are food environments transforming with global change, including with climate change, shifts in markets and policies, and pandemics such as COVID-19?
  • What are the characteristics of food environments that support sustainable diets?
  • What methods, tools, and metrics are most appropriate to measure different types of food environments and food environment interventions?
  • What are the impacts of food environments on the sustainability attributes of diets?
  • How can sustainable diets be achieved in the context of global change?
  • Have perceptions of sustainable diets by food system stakeholders changed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Contributions may include literature reviews, conceptual advances, methodological advances, community-based case studies, empirical field studies, and big data analyses. We are interested in contributions from diverse socioecological perspectives across a range of food environments from wild and cultivated food environments to informal and formal market food environments situated in indigenous, rural, and urban food systems.

Prof. Selena Ahmed
Prof. Shauna Downs
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Foods is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Sustainable food systems
  • Food environments
  • Wild foods
  • Indigenous food systems
  • Place-based food systems
  • Global change
  • Dietary diversity
  • Sustainable diets
  • Public health interventions
  • Food sovereignty
  • Land-use change
  • COVID-19 pandemic

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Article
Suitability of Data-Collection Methods, Tools, and Metrics for Evaluating Market Food Environments in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
Foods 2021, 10(11), 2728; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10112728 - 08 Nov 2021
Viewed by 358
Abstract
Globalization is transforming food environments in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) with implications for diets and nutrition. However, most food-environment assessments were developed for use in high-income countries. We evaluated the suitability of 113 data-collection assessments (i.e., methods, tools, and metrics) for eight [...] Read more.
Globalization is transforming food environments in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) with implications for diets and nutrition. However, most food-environment assessments were developed for use in high-income countries. We evaluated the suitability of 113 data-collection assessments (i.e., methods, tools, and metrics) for eight dimensions of informal and formal market food environments for diverse contexts of LMICs. We used a scoring exercise and a survey of experts (n = 27). According to the scoring exercise, 10 assessments (8 methods, 1 tool, and 1 metric) were suitable without modification for informal markets. Suitability for formal markets was markedly higher, with 41 assessments (21 methods, 14 tools, and 6 metrics) found suitable without modification. Experts considered availability, accessibility, price, and affordability the most important dimensions of market food environments to evaluate in LMICs. Market-basket analysis and vendor audits (which include inventories) were ranked as the most suitable methods to assess multiple dimensions of market food environments, including availability, price, affordability, vendor and product characteristics, marketing, and regulation. Gaps in relevant assessments were found for convenience and desirability. Results demonstrate the need for the development, adaptation, and validation of assessments relevant for informal markets in a diverse range of LMIC contexts to support diets, nutrition, and health globally. Full article
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Article
The Price of Homemade Street Food in Central Asia and Eastern Europe: Is There a Relation with Its Nutritional Value?
Foods 2021, 10(9), 1985; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10091985 - 25 Aug 2021
Viewed by 472
Abstract
The aim was to describe the price of homemade street foods in four cities of Central Asia and Eastern Europe and to analyze its association with energy density, macronutrients, sodium and potassium contents. Cross-sectional evaluations of street food vending sites were conducted in [...] Read more.
The aim was to describe the price of homemade street foods in four cities of Central Asia and Eastern Europe and to analyze its association with energy density, macronutrients, sodium and potassium contents. Cross-sectional evaluations of street food vending sites were conducted in Dushanbe, Tajikistan (n = 562), Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (n = 384), Almaty, Kazakhstan (n = 236) and Chișinău, Moldova (n = 89) in 2016–2017. Information on the homemade street foods available, including price, was systematically collected; the most commonly available foods (n = 64) were sampled for chemical analysis. Prices were converted to international dollars ($) and expressed as $/serving, $/100 g and $/100 kcal. The median street food price was $1.00/serving, $0.85/100 g and $0.33/100 kcal. Traditional foods were cheaper per 100 g than the westernized ($0.77 vs. $1.00, p = 0.011). For each unit increase in energy density (kcal/g), the homemade street foods were $0.12 cheaper per 100 kcal and $0.11 more expensive per 100 g. The carbohydrate content was negatively associated with price per 100 kcal, while total fat, monounsaturated, saturated and trans-fatty acids content were positively associated with price per 100 g. Energy-dense homemade street foods were the cheapest. Further insight on food preparation might clarify the association between carbohydrates and monounsaturated fatty acids content and street food price. Full article
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Article
An Italian-Mediterranean Dietary Pattern Developed Based on the EAT-Lancet Reference Diet (EAT-IT): A Nutritional Evaluation
Foods 2021, 10(3), 558; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10030558 - 08 Mar 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1373
Abstract
There is an urgent need to promote healthy and sustainable diets that are tailored to the preferences and cultures of different populations. The present study aimed to (i) define a Mediterranean dietary pattern in line with the EAT-Lancet Commission reference diet (ELCRD), based [...] Read more.
There is an urgent need to promote healthy and sustainable diets that are tailored to the preferences and cultures of different populations. The present study aimed to (i) define a Mediterranean dietary pattern in line with the EAT-Lancet Commission reference diet (ELCRD), based on 2500 kcal/day and adapted to the Italian food habits (EAT-IT); (ii) develop a mid/long-term dietary plan based on EAT-IT and a dietary plan based on the Italian Dietary Guidelines (IDG); (iii) compare the two dietary plans in terms of portions, frequencies of consumption, and nutritional adequacy based on the nutrient and energy recommendations for the Italian adult population. The main differences between the two plans were related to the higher amount of fruit and vegetables in the IDG compared to the EAT-IT, while the EAT-IT plan was higher in nuts and legumes, which represent the main protein sources in the ELCRD. Differences in the protein sources, especially milk and derivatives, and for cereal-based foods, were also found. Dietary plans were comparable for most nutrients, except for higher energy from lipids and vegetal protein, a higher amount of fiber, and lower levels of calcium that were evidenced for the EAT-IT dietary plan compared to the IDG-based one. In conclusion, the analysis of the EAT-IT demonstrated certain nutritional issues. It remains to be determined whether this may represent a health concern in further studies aimed at investigating the feasibility of sustainable dietary patterns. Full article
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Article
Exploring Consumers’ Purchase Intention of an Innovation of the Agri-Food Industry: A Case of Artificial Meat
Foods 2020, 9(6), 745; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9060745 - 04 Jun 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 2407
Abstract
Green consumption is an emerging environmental topic receiving global attention. Because livestock production is a primary source of greenhouse gas emission, the “low-carbon diet” has become a new trend in the catering industry. Fast food companies have been launching vegetarian products because artificial [...] Read more.
Green consumption is an emerging environmental topic receiving global attention. Because livestock production is a primary source of greenhouse gas emission, the “low-carbon diet” has become a new trend in the catering industry. Fast food companies have been launching vegetarian products because artificial meat requires less water and land resources than traditional livestock and has lower carbon emissions. This study explores the influence of consumers’ attitude, subjective norms (SNs), and perceived behavioral control (PBC) on their purchase intention for vegetarian burgers from the product knowledge (PK) and environmental concern (EC) perspectives. Based on the theory of planned behavior, the purchase intention of people from different food cultures to pay for fast food burgers is discussed. Five hundred questionnaires were distributed, of which 436 were valid. The results revealed that: (1) consumers’ SNs, PBC, and EC significantly affect purchase intention (PI), and SNs and PK have no significant relationship with PI; and (2) vegetarians are willing to pay higher prices than nonvegetarians. This study recommends that industry personnel should attempt to increase consumers’ knowledge regarding artificial meat and expand marketing channels to improve the convenience of purchasing artificial meat foods by conducting lectures and media promotion, respectively. Full article
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Article
Food Security in Artisanal Mining Communities: An Exploration of Rural Markets in Northern Guinea
Foods 2020, 9(4), 479; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9040479 - 10 Apr 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1277
Abstract
The number of people engaged in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) has grown rapidly in the past twenty years, but they continue to be an understudied population experiencing high rates of malnutrition, poverty, and food insecurity. This paper explores how characteristics of markets [...] Read more.
The number of people engaged in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) has grown rapidly in the past twenty years, but they continue to be an understudied population experiencing high rates of malnutrition, poverty, and food insecurity. This paper explores how characteristics of markets that serve ASM populations facilitate and pose challenges to acquiring a nutritious and sustainable diet. The study sites included eight markets across four mining districts in the Kankan Region in the Republic of Guinea. Market descriptions to capture the structure of village markets, as well as twenty in-depth structured interviews with food vendors at mining site markets were conducted. We identified three forms of market organization based on location and distance from mining sites. Markets located close to mining sites offered fewer fruit and vegetable options, as well as a higher ratio of prepared food options as compared with markets located close to village centers. Vendors were highly responsive to customer needs. Food accessibility and utilization, rather than availability, are critical for food security in non-agricultural rural areas such as mining sites. Future market-based nutrition interventions need to consider the diverse market settings serving ASM communities and leverage the high vendor responsiveness to customer needs. Full article
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Article
Supporting Women’s Participation in Developing A Seaweed Supply Chain in Kiribati for Health and Nutrition
Foods 2020, 9(4), 382; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9040382 - 26 Mar 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1478
Abstract
Seaweeds are a source of food throughout the Pacific region. Kiribati, however, does not have a strong history of using seaweed in their diets, despite having reliable access to indigenous edible seaweeds. A series of peer-led seaweed training workshops held in Kiribati between [...] Read more.
Seaweeds are a source of food throughout the Pacific region. Kiribati, however, does not have a strong history of using seaweed in their diets, despite having reliable access to indigenous edible seaweeds. A series of peer-led seaweed training workshops held in Kiribati between 2018 and 2019 provided women with knowledge, skills, and motivational support needed to engage in the seaweed supply chain, from harvesting, processing, and marketing to consumption. This study aimed to identify opportunities and enablers to support women’s participation across the seaweed supply chain. Structured interviews with 49 women explored their interest and expected costs and benefits from involvement in the supply chain. There was high interest in most seaweed-related activities and the key motivators were health and nutrition for themselves and their family. Participants were also interested in developing and sharing new skills and saw the potential for income generation. However, there were also clear barriers including a desire for further training in seaweed harvesting, processing, and recipe creation; additional social support; and in public promotion. Given the natural resources and desire of women to engage in developing this new edible seaweed supply chain in Kiribati, there is now a need for capacity development to build social and economic wellbeing and food security across the broader community. Additional peer-to-peer training opportunities may look to other Pacific Islands where seaweed is already an established and traditional food. Full article
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Article
Food Purchasing Behaviors of a Remote and Rural Adult Solomon Islander Population
Foods 2019, 8(10), 464; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods8100464 - 10 Oct 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1342
Abstract
The aim of this study was to investigate the food purchasing behaviors of an adult Solomon Islander population within a transitioning food system in Auki, Malaita. Food purchasing behavior measures included; venue type and transportation for purchasing food, previous day expenditure on food [...] Read more.
The aim of this study was to investigate the food purchasing behaviors of an adult Solomon Islander population within a transitioning food system in Auki, Malaita. Food purchasing behavior measures included; venue type and transportation for purchasing food, previous day expenditure on food purchases, number of weekly shopping experiences for store foods (generally long-life shelf and frozen items) and fresh foods (such as fruits and vegetables and fresh fish) and the importance of factors (i.e., price) on purchasing decisions. One hundred and thirty-three adults (aged 18 to 74 years; female: 63%, males: 37%) completed an interviewer administered questionnaire during December 2018. Food items were primarily sourced from Auki markets (n = 70) and stores (n = 40). Food purchasing differed between fresh and semi-perishable foods (store food). Participants reported similar shopping experiences for store food and fresh food (M = 3.87 and M = 3.25 times a week, respectively) and spending between $1 and $200 (M = $56.12) Solomon Island dollars on food in the previous day. The most reported purchased item was white rice (n = 117, 88%), with taste, freshness and family preference the most important factors reported as influencing food purchasing choices. While our findings are from a small sample in Auki, further research could build upon this work by investigating food purchasing behaviors at other times of the year, and more widely in the Solomon Islands and greater Pacific region. Full article
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Concept Paper
Food Environment Typology: Advancing an Expanded Definition, Framework, and Methodological Approach for Improved Characterization of Wild, Cultivated, and Built Food Environments toward Sustainable Diets
Foods 2020, 9(4), 532; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9040532 - 22 Apr 2020
Cited by 57 | Viewed by 7396
Abstract
The food environment is a critical place in the food system to implement interventions to support sustainable diets and address the global syndemic of obesity, undernutrition, and climate change, because it contains the total scope of options within which consumers make decisions about [...] Read more.
The food environment is a critical place in the food system to implement interventions to support sustainable diets and address the global syndemic of obesity, undernutrition, and climate change, because it contains the total scope of options within which consumers make decisions about which foods to acquire and consume. In this paper, we build on existing definitions of the food environment, and provide an expanded definition that includes the parameter of sustainability properties of foods and beverages, in order to integrate linkages between food environments and sustainable diets. We further provide a graphical representation of the food environment using a socio-ecological framework. Next, we provide a typology with descriptions of the different types of food environments that consumers have access to in low-, middle-, and high-income countries including wild, cultivated, and built food environments. We characterize the availability, affordability, convenience, promotion and quality (previously termed desirability), and sustainability properties of food and beverages for each food environment type. Lastly, we identify a methodological approach with potential objective and subjective tools and metrics for measuring the different properties of various types of food environments. The definition, framework, typology, and methodological toolbox presented here are intended to facilitate scholars and practitioners to identify entry points in the food environment for implementing and evaluating interventions that support sustainable diets for enhancing human and planetary health. Full article
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