Dietetic Practice and the Effects of Climate Change on the Global Food Supply
We recently addressed a Trending Topic on Conflict and the Impact on the Global Food Supply.
Climate change can also impact the food supply. Based on a United Nations (UN) report (1), as climate changes, food will become more expensive, scarcer and even less nutritious. People across the globe have already started to adapt what food they eat based on what’s available, accessible and acceptable to them (2) and to protect the climate (also referred to as following a ‘climatarian’ diet) (3).
The PEN Team thought a deeper dive into climate change, its impact on food security and its application to practice guidance for dietitians was timely.
Climate change, particularly increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and extreme events such as flooding, affects the ability to provide access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food (4).
Climate change is caused by the increase in concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) in the atmosphere (5), and about 20 to 37% of total GHGE are related to the food system (6,7). GHGE primarily results from human activities such as using fossil fuels or agriculture, including land use, storage, transport, packaging, processing, retail and consumption.
Dietitians can work with clients to help reduce GHGE by encouraging:
- diet patterns that focus on plants (coarse grains, pulses, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds) versus animal-sourced food to help reduce the reliance on livestock (particularly ruminant livestock) and their associated food needs.
- a reduction in food waste by educating on how to plan food purchases and store foods properly.
- the consumption of regional and seasonal food when available with less reliance on transported food, especially from long distances.
What this means
Dietitians should be aware of the impact of global food security on the local food system and have a role in addressing the food security of their clients. This can include:
- working with clients to address their food security status (8) and ensuring they have access to support, so their basic needs are met.
- advocating to help address the social inequities that contribute to household food insecurity, which are now exacerbated by issues such as the climate crisis. Advocating includes understanding the impact of environmental racism on those who are more likely to feel the effects of climate change (9).
- promoting public policy interventions that address the financial constraints of those most vulnerable to experiencing food insecurity (10).
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Climate Change and Land. 2019 Aug. Available from: https://www.ipcc.ch/srccl/
- BBC News. Five countries, five meals - tackling the food inflation crisis. 2022 Aug. Available from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-62520673
- Food & Nutrition Magazine. Climatarian diet. 2022 Feb. Available from: https://foodandnutrition.org/from-the-magazine/what-is-the-climatarian-diet/
- Committee on World Food Security. Global Strategic Framework for Food Security & Nutrition (GFS). 2014. Available from: https://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/cfs/Docs1314/GSF/GSF_Version_3_EN.pdf
- Health Canada. Greenhouse gas emissions. 2022 May. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/environmental-indicators/greenhouse-gas-emissions.html
- Sapkota T, Tubiello FN, Xu Y. Food Security. Chapter 5. In: Climate Change and Land. 2019 Aug. Available from: https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/4/2021/02/08_Chapter-5_3.pdf
- Dietitians of Canada. Sustainable Diets and the Environment Background. In: Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition [PEN]. 2021 Sep 9. Available from: https://www.pennutrition.com/KnowledgePathway.aspx?kpid=24840&trid=27502&trcatid=38. Access by subscription only.
- Dietitians of Canada. Addressing Household Food Insecurity in Canada. 2016. Available from: https://www.dietitians.ca/DietitiansOfCanada/media/Documents/Resources/HFI-Position-Statement-and-Recommendations-DC-FINAL.pdf?ext=.pdf
- Kaufman JD, Hajat A. Confronting environmental racism. Environ Health Perspect. 2021 May;129(5):51001. doi: 10.1289/EHP9511. Abstract available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34014764/
- Tarasuk V, Li T, Fafard St-Germain AA. Household food insecurity in Canada, 2021. Toronto: Research to identify policy options to reduce food insecurity (PROOF). 2022 Aug. Available from: https://proof.utoronto.ca/