Abstract Achieving food and nutrition security for all people remains one of the defining challenges for humanity in the 21st century. Although progress has been achieved in many areas, notably in reducing absolute hunger, other forms of malnutrition are worsening, for example, micronutrient deficiency, and the overweight and obesity epidemic. In light of persistent and worsening malnutrition status in many countries, new approaches are called for. One such possibility is the food systems approach. The food systems framework explicitly links drivers, activities, and outcomes of the food system. The framework is useful for critiquing existing food systems, exposing important but often overlooked linkages, and identifying promising points of intervention. It is a valuable tool for bringing together the wide diversity of food system actors to develop mutual understanding and ideally a shared vision for future food systems with improved outcomes. This chapter describes the food systems approach and illustrates its application through three contrasting case studies from Australia, Indonesia, and Vanuatu, representing a Pacific Island nation. In Australia the focus is on the overweight and obesity epidemic, with a particular focus on the public health and environmental outcomes from sugar production and consumption. Indonesia represents a major emerging economy and the focus here is on undernutrition, and in particular the problem of childhood stunting, an indicator of severe maternal and child malnutrition. Vanuatu provides another unique set of geographical and cultural conditions. Here the focus is on the triple burden of malnutrition that has arisen from the interplay between climate change and globalization of the food supply. In each case study the causes and mechanisms of malnutrition are complex and often contested. Much existing government and private sector research and development already address the various forms of malnutrition, and our purpose is not to diminish this existing work. And yet, the problem persists despite these significant efforts. The food systems approach can complement existing work, adding value, and improving the effectiveness of existing programs. In many cases governments have already designed interventions using food system principles, but in all cases, there is potential to go deeper into developing and implementing more systemic interventions. Food and nutrition security is a basic human right enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals. The three case studies presented here represent only the first steps of what needs to be an ongoing prioritization of food systems research and development, progressing alongside more traditional approaches to food and nutrition security. The huge costs of malnutrition, and the environmental impacts of food system activities, more than justify a modest investment in food systems research and development. Finally, from an ethical perspective, if there is the possibility of restoring the basic dignity of food and nutrition security to those currently malnourished, we have a moral obligation to do so.

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