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Sustainable Food System Transition and Healthy Diet: The Contribution of Food Studies

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Food".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 April 2025 | Viewed by 492

Special Issue Editor

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Guest Editor
1. Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches, Travail, Organisations, Pouvoir (CERTOP-CNRS), Toulouse University Jean-Jaurès, 31058 Toulouse, France
2. Faculty of Social Sciences and Leisure Management, Taylor’s University, Subang Jaya 47500, Malaysia
Interests: food transition, sociology and anthropology of food; food cultures; sociology of obesity and eating disorders; food crisis management; evaluation of public policies on food; health food links; sociology of tourism; tourism; gastronomy
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Concerns about healthy eating and the environmental consequences of food choices in the context of population growth are profoundly transforming the rationale that underpins food systems.

Models of the global food system based on the 'planetary health diet' (EAT Lancet) are crucial for sounding the alarm. By modulating the scenarios, they enable us to move away from the "one best way" ideology and are written in such a way as to mobilize different categories of stakeholders in the food system. In this way, we can hope to raise awareness of contemporary issues among professionals, policymakers and the general public.

However, the planetary health diet is based on presuppositions about the way in which humans satisfy their dietary needs that are still too ethnocentric (in this case Western-centric). These presuppositions are both nutritionism, which is the reduction of food to its nutritional composition, and the more or less implicit endorsement of rational choice theories. As a result, food cultures are overshadowed and considered to be factors of resistance to change whenever they conflict with this approach. Certain cultural characteristics prevent individuals from making the right decisions, those that are in the interests of the health of populations and the planet, as well as food security. They therefore need to be reformed by opposing them via what is called the "scientific" discourse. This approach evaluates the links between food behaviors and the construction of social identities. Such a conception has already demonstrated its “relative” effectiveness in the fight against the development of obesity.

The socio-anthropology of food invites us to look at food cultures from a more positive angle, and to turn them into a lever for action. This is first by considering their influence on consumption through meal patterns and food days, the symbolic value placed on food, and religious and cultural taboos and prohibitions, which are involved in the construction and maintenance of social identities. The perspective of “theory of practice” (Bourdieu, Warde), on the one hand, points to the fact that consumption largely takes place outside the reasoning of the actors, and on the other hand, invites us to focus on food routines and scenarios that are in fact culturally defined. In this way, we avoid both the tautologies of classical culturalism and the reductionism of rational choice. From then on, food habits and cultures are not just a brake on change, but a lever for change.

However, the sociology of food also invites us to look at food systems not just as technological assemblies, but as systems rooted in food cultures and largely overdetermined by them. We do not eat what nature produces, but produce what we want to eat.

One of the positive aspects of the EAT Lancet is that it considers objectives such as "Embrace cultural food influences" in the brief for food service professional:

  • Embrace cultural food influences. Look to a variety of traditional, plant-forward food cultures across the globe for inspiration around both flavor strategies and to craft tasty dishes on restricted budgets through cultural exchanges.
  • Bring biodiversity to the table. Bold conservation targets require collaboration between farmers and farming communities to maintain habitats on or around farms and to enable the safe passage of wildlife. Source ingredients from farmers and suppliers who contribute to efforts towards biodiversity.

We need to extend and broaden this perspective. As awareness of the health and ecological issues surrounding food expands, the modernization of societies is changing the way we view traditional cultures. They are seen as testimonies to the art of living as the peoples of the past did and are elevated to the rank of heritage, a heritage that must be defended, protected, and passed on to future generations. Since 2010, UNESCO has played an important role in this movement. There is therefore a tension between respecting and revitalizing certain traditions and reforming them so that they accord with the ambitions of a healthy population and a healthy planet, as well as meeting the challenge of feeding the world.

By considering food styles as a way of diversifying the use of natural resources and preserving biodiversity, we do not limit ourselves when it comes to climate change.

Recipes and table manners become places for reading and studying these tensions and contradictions of modern societies. The effects of sustainable concerns can be observed at several levels: the meanings and beliefs associated with dishes and consumption conditions, table rituals, culinary techniques, and more broadly, the organization of food systems.

The effects of sustainable concerns may include highlighting certain practices as unsustainable and inviting professionals and customers to abandon them. This may lead to the idea that public policy should address the issue and produce regulations. This could be the case for certain products such as shark fish, dog meat, and foie gras, among others. It could also mean reducing our consumption of certain foods or increasing our consumption of others.

The papers on offer will address the tension between food traditions and change. Food practices, recipes and the organization of food systems will provide a forum for reading and analyzing the tensions that exist in food systems between traditions and innovations, justified by the desire for a more sustainable world.

Prof. Dr. Jean Pierre Poulain
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at 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 submissions that pass pre-check are 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. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly 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 2400 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.


  • sustainable food system
  • food system transition
  • health diet
  • sociology of food
  • anthropology of food
  • food studies
  • environmental concerns

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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