20 June 2018 Volume :6 Issue :29

SHEFS Puts Sustainable and Healthy Food Systems on the Menu

SHEFS Puts Sustainable and Healthy Food Systems on the Menu
Attendees at the SHEFS annual meeting in Kloof, KwaZulu-Natal.

A team from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) recently hosted the annual meeting of the Sustainable and Healthy Food Systems (SHEFS) programme, an interdisciplinary research partnership driven by nine international partners.

The Wellcome Trust’s Our Planet, Our Health Programme funds the four-year project.

Around 60 people participated in the presentations and workshops in Kloof and Westville over five days. Institutions present included UKZN’s Colleges of Health SciencesHumanities and Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES); University College LondonUniversity of London (UoL); City UoL; the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at UoL; Royal Veterinary CollegeUniversity of AberdeenFood Foundation as well as the Public Health Foundation of India.

Representatives from the governmental departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Health, KZN Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and the eThekwini Municipality were also present, alongside representatives of private and public organisations.

The large, inter-institutional programme features work in South Africa, India and the United Kingdom. Researchers who are part of the programme are investigating food systems under significant pressure from demographic changes, shifts in dietary patterns, land use changes and urbanisation. Poor nourishment leads to a rise in non-communicable diseases, and incorrect food production and food systems lead to challenges of social and economic development while also threatening environmental sustainability.

‘The aim of SHEFS is to provide policymakers with novel, inter-disciplinary research evidence to define future food system policies that deliver nutritious and healthy foods in a sustainable and equitable manner,’ said Professor Alan Dangour, Principal Investigator from LSHTM.

Dangour outlined the objectives of the meeting as face-to-face interaction, transdisciplinary collaborations, extension of thinking and worldviews in terms of science and research as well as partnerships and planning.

Researchers work at the critical intersection of agriculture, the environment, food systems, nutrition and health; an important nexus for policy creation and implementation.

Co-investigator Professor Rob Slotow of UKZN said the purpose of the presentations and workshop was to contribute towards the development of policy-relevant research.

Researchers presented their research outcomes thus far, detailed future research plans and spent time exploring integration of research synergies. The agenda included a workshop to identify policy opportunities and the need for sustainable food systems as well as technical workshops and site visits.

Words and photograph: Christine Cuénod 

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