Sustainable Nutrition: What Is It? And What Can I Do?

What is sustainable nutrition?

Sustainability is defined as a future-minded way of production. While setting an environmental sustaining capacity is a baseline, nutrition sustainability aims to search for the food system driving nodes and find more efficient solutions in the use of for personal, local, and national resources with a growth mindset. (1) In the ideal situation, food would be produced to be nutritionally available, affordable, culturally relevant, and sustainable.

Where is the future of sustainable nutrition?

According to Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute, there are four major dimensions for sustainable nutrition: Health/Nutrition, Economic, Environmental, and Socio-Cultural.

  1. Health/Nutrition: Getting the right nutrition to the right group. Nutrition is not one size fits all: different people and communities require different nutritional needs. While this is an ongoing process, some previously successful initiatives have been:
    • Calorie Reduction in beverage and snack
    • Sodium Reduction in snack and packaged meal
    • Promoting the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  2. Environmental
    • Food waste: food waste occurs in different stages of the supply chain including post harvesting loss, post harvesting storage and handling, distribution and retail, and consumption.
    • Sustainable protein: plant-based food including meat alternatives, insect protein, and fermentation processes are just some of the exciting opportunities in this direction.
  3. Economic
    • People facing economic pressure may also face malnutrition. With limited resources, they may be unable to afford safe and healthy food. Food apartheids are common in low socioeconomic communities.
    • How can we make food more accessible to people? Infrastructure is important when thinking about accessibility. Some examples are:
      • Policies that support the building of public transportation.
      • Opportunities at local food banks, food pantries, and farmers’ markets.
  4.  Socio-Cultural
    • Food is cultural. “Sustainable diets need to be socio-culturally acceptable and economically accessible for all.” (FAO Sustainable Healthy Diet Guiding Principles) When working with people or communities of varying cultural backgrounds, one must take into account the types of food that are culturally relevant.

I’m interested! What can I do at Tufts?

  1. Listen to a Friedman Feature lecture during the fall/spring semesters.
  2. Read and research more about Professor Nicole Tichenor-Blackstone and Professor Zach Conrad (former Tufts faculty) work. They study food waste, the true cost of food, and using life cycle assessments to understand the environmental cost of different diets.
  3. Check out these articles written by Tufts faculty:

What are some career opportunities in this field?

  1. Academia
    • Look for positions as a research assistant.
  2. Data Analysis & Supply Chain
    • Data visualization and storytelling skills are essential. There is a need for greater data transparency in the sustainable nutrition world. For example, we need more transparency on emission data, farm data, or any data that provides a clearer picture of the entire supply chain.
    • Work related to regenerative farming practices.
  3. Accounting and Finance role
    • This may sound far away from sustainable nutrition but there are many opportunities in greenhouse accounting and carbon accounting.
  4. Here is a small list of companies and/or nonprofits that are doing great work in the area of sustainable nutrition (and there are so many more! We hope this list can give you some inspiration to explore other opportunities):

Special thanks to Friedman student Kirstin Skyrm for her insightful ideas and amazing resources about Sustainable Nutrition.

By Fangruo (Ingrid) Zhou
Fangruo (Ingrid) Zhou Student Ambassador