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Summit FAQs



What is the goal of the UN Food Systems Summit?
Does USDA support the UN Food Systems Summit?
What is USDA’s approach to sustainability, does it include nutrition and health?
What is USDA’s position on diverse UN Food Systems approaches and terminologies?
What is USDA’s approach to innovation in the context of the UN Food Systems Summit?
What are the Food Systems Summit Action Tracks and how is USDA participating in them?
How does the UN Food Systems Summit replace or complement other international efforts?
What is USDA’s position on healthy diets in the context of the UN Food Systems Summit, including on animal-based foods and processed foods?
How will the UN weigh and consider the contributions of Food Systems Dialogues, including independent dialogues?



What is the goal of the UN Food Systems Summit?
The United Nations has set ambitious, overarching goals for the UN Food Systems Summit:

The Summit will launch bold new actions to deliver progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), each of which relies to some degree on healthier, more sustainable and equitable food systems. The Summit will awaken the world to the fact that we all must work together to transform the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about food. It is a summit for everyone everywhere – a people’s summit. It is also a solutions summit that will require everyone to take action to transform the world’s food systems.



Does USDA support the UN Food Systems Summit?
USDA supports the UN Food Systems Summit and the goals of accelerating progress toward ending hunger, improving nutrition, and building more sustainable, equitable, and resilient food systems. The Summit is a valuable opportunity to focus the world’s attention on these shared goals. USDA is committed to building more sustainable food systems across all three dimensions of sustainable development—social, economic, and environmental—for the wellbeing of current and future generations.

USDA further emphasizes the importance of catalyzing action in meeting the first goal of food systems: safe, nutritious, affordable, accessible food for all. Globally, we have not met this goal and trends are moving in the wrong direction.



What is USDA’s approach to sustainability, does it include nutrition and health?
USDA’s approach to sustainability recognizes and seeks to balance objectives across the three dimension of sustainable development: social, economic, and environmental. Nutrition and health objectives are major priorities for USDA and are included with the social objectives, if not otherwise differentiated. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UN Food Systems Summit seek a similar balancing of goals and objectives, as evidenced by the 17 goals, 169 targets and 232 unique indicators in the SDGs, which cover objectives related to nutrition, health, food security, worker health and safety, environmental conservation, and climate change mitigation.



What is USDA’s position on diverse UN Food Systems approaches and terminologies?
USDA stresses that every effort to improve sustainability, regardless of how it is framed, described or promoted, must be evaluated against measurable indicators across the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability, including food security and nutrition, farmer and food system workers’ income and wellbeing, and environmental health. It is unacceptable to simply categorize particular approaches as “sustainable” or “unsustainable” without doing the hard work of assessing real impacts and outcomes in specific contexts.

USDA strongly promotes science- and evidence-based measurement as foundational to the UN Food Systems Summit. Through the Agricultural Research Service, Economic Research Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Forest Service, and the Food and Nutrition Service, USDA invests in science- and evidence-based methodologies and approaches to measure the impacts of farm and food policy and approaches on environmental, social and economic sustainability.

USDA believes that the Food System Summit should promote internationally recognized science- and risk-based food safety policies and regulatory frameworks. Failure to do so could have detrimental impacts on food safety and nutrition.

USDA supports the UN Scientific Group’s intention to evaluate the actions promoted by the UN Food Systems Summit. USDA also recognizes that the 17 goals, 169 targets and 232 unique indicators in the UN Sustainable Development Goals represent a major contribution to global efforts to measure and advance sustainable food systems. The United States updates its reporting of the SDGs as new data becomes available.



What is USDA’s approach to innovation in the context of the UN Food Systems Summit?
USDA stresses that the Food Systems Summit should highlight that there is not a one-size-fits all approach to improving the sustainability of food systems, and that solutions will vary by location and context. The Summit should avoid prescriptive approaches that limit the ability of governments, farmers, industry, and entrepreneurs to develop innovative, context-specific solutions.

The Summit should create a big tent for the promotion of innovative new approaches. Effective, impactful innovation of every type, including those based on new cutting-edge technologies and biotechnology, those incorporating ecological management approaches, and those rooted in tried and true farming practices, should all be welcomed. By leveraging evidence-based innovation and science, the UN Food Systems Summit can help expand the toolbox for farmers, ranchers, fishers, and other producers to improve sustainability and resilience throughout food systems.



What are the Food Systems Summit Action Tracks and how is USDA participating in them?
The five UN Food Systems Summit Action Tracks reflect the major goals of the Summit:

  1. Ensure Access to Safe and Nutritious Food for All
  2. Shift to Sustainable Consumption Patterns
  3. Boost Nature Positive Production
  4. Advance Equitable Livelihoods
  5. Build Resilience to Vulnerabilities, Shocks and Stress
Food Systems Summit stakeholders are invited to submit actions to advance the goals outlined in the Action Tracks. These actions will be one of the major outcomes of the Summit. There is overlap among the goals of each Action Track, and actions targeting outcomes in one Action Track will likely have ramifications across all Tracks. Climate change, for example, though a particular target of Action Tracks 3 and 5, is related to multiple Action Track workstreams. It is likely that many of the Summit outcomes will have a climate lens, shaping the calls to action for all food systems stakeholders.

Action track leads –and the UN Food Systems Summit Scientific Group –are developing background papers describing the purpose and intent of Action Track workstreams. Draft papers are found on the Summit’s document webpage, along with other background papers prepared by the Scientific Group. Comments on these papers can be submitted on https://sc-fss2021.org/.

The United States has joined the Action Track UN Member Country leadership teams and is engaging with the Summit organizers on Summit actions. While USDA sees all five Action Tracks as crucially important to improving the sustainability of food systems, USDA is the U.S. lead government agency for Action Tracks 2 and 3. The U.S. Agency for International Development is the lead U.S. government agency for Action Tracks 1 and 5. The U.S. Department of State is the lead U.S. government agency for Action Track 4.



How does the UN Food Systems Summit replace or complement other international efforts?
USDA stresses that the Food Systems Summit should strive to build on and complement, not duplicate, the work currently being undertaken by other bodies to address food safety, nutrition, food security, and environmental policy objectives, including the Committee on World Food Security’s internationally agreed upon Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition, ongoing efforts to achieve better public health outcomes such as the One Health approach, and international Summits, like the Nutrition for Growth Summit in December.



What is USDA’s position on healthy diets in the context of the UN Food Systems Summit, including on animal-based foods and processed foods?
USDA’s position on healthy diets is as described in USDA’s and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The Dietary Guidelines focus on healthy dietary patterns consisting of nutrient-dense forms of foods and beverages across all food groups, in recommended amounts, and within calorie limits. They define nutrient-dense foods as

Nutrient-dense foods and beverages provide vitamins, minerals, and other health-promoting components and have little added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, eggs, beans, peas, and lentils, unsalted nuts and seeds, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and poultry—when prepared with no or little added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium— are nutrient-dense foods.

The Dietary Guidelines advise Americans to limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium since meeting food group recommendations—even with nutrient-dense choices—requires most of a person’s daily calorie needs and sodium limits.

When it comes to vegetables and fruit, the Dietary Guidelines recommend a variety of vegetables and fruit, chosen from fresh, frozen, canned, or dried options, in cooked or raw forms.



How will the UN weigh and consider the contributions of Food Systems Dialogues, including independent dialogues?
USDA is the convener of the U.S. National Food Systems Dialogues, which have the dual purpose of facilitating dialogue in the United States about sustainable food systems to inform both U.S. policymaking and UN Food Systems Summit outcomes. The Summit Secretariat invites all Dialogue Convenors to submit the outcomes of their Dialogues via the Official Feedback Form to the UN Dialogues Gateway. The Summit Secretariat will synthesize the outcomes of the Dialogues and make them available to different Summit workstreams, including the Action Tracks, Scientific Groups, Champions, and other dialogues and for the pre-summit event in July 2021. The U.S. National Food Systems Dialogue readout reports are available on the UN Dialogues Gateway and USDA website (PDF, 179 KB).

Independent Summit Dialogues are locally led and enable communities to identify sustainable solutions to strengthen local and global food systems. USDA will link to the findings of US-based Independent Summit Dialogues on its website and offer these findings for consideration by participants in the U.S. National Food Systems Dialogues. If you are a U.S.-based business, coalition, organization, or state or local government hosting an Independent Summit Dialogue please feel free to get in touch with any questions or email us your results to FoodSystemsDialogues@usda.gov.