Baltic diets: mapping a transition to sustainable food systems

For the first time ever, movers and shakers representing civil society, research, government, Nordic embassies and funding agencies joined forces in Riga, Latvia, to discuss data needs, available policy options and the opportunities for different sectors in the transition towards healthy and sustainable food systems in the Baltic region.

During the “Towards healthy and sustainable food systems in the Baltic region” workshop, hosted by Nordic Council of Ministers, the WHO Regional Office for Europe and Riga Stradins University, this determined and energetic group took stock of the various perspectives and initiatives on sustainable and healthy diets in the Baltic region.

Presentations of good cases, system mapping sessions, a seasonal dinner prepared some of Latvia’s top chefs and a trip to the Riga Central market, one of Europe’s largest marketplaces, were all a part a thought-provoking and interactive programme.

The 3-day meeting at the end of February drew inspiration from projects and organizations that have been breaking down the silos and pushing the boundaries of just how the formulation of a regional diet could bring us closer to a more desirable and harmonized future.

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Co-facilitating the meeting together with a colleague from the WHO Regional Office for Europe (Photo: Riga Stradins University)

Forces at play

A step-by-step process of preliminary system mapping (i.e.the conceptual representation of elements, relationships and interconnections in a system and how changes in one area might affect others) was the common thread throughout the entire programme.

Participants worked together in diverse groups to discuss the forces at play in the transition to more sustainable and healthy diets in the Baltic region. Overall, the combined effort to better understand the Baltic food systems was useful in:

  • encouraging high levels of participation and local ownership in the preliminary development of a theory of change
  • developing a narrative theory of change
  • understanding priority areas and leverage points within the system
Food systems movers and shakers at the workshop

The urgency to act

By the end of the workshop, three areas where the group saw the urgency and had the agency to act:

  • Defining and developing criteria for sustainable and healthy Baltic diets in order to generate a tangible future roadmap
  • Coordinating existing data across the region that is useful to understand the current state of the Baltic food system and its components, and harvesting useful data that can help policy-makers to develop better and more targeted solutions
  • Creating an independent Baltic future food “lab” to put new and innovative ideas to the test, and to scale up what already works in order to create more buy-in within the region

Join the discussion!

If you didn’t have the chance to attend this workshop, fear not! The workshop organizers will be coordinating efforts to ensure that the momentum is not lost. If you have further questions or specific cases or initiatives that you would like to flag, please do get in touch!

You are also welcome to join the Nordic Food Policy Lab’s LinkedIn communitywhere you can follow the conversations about this workshop and discuss how food policy can be a force for change.

Read the full article here.

As an External Consultant to the Nordic Food Lab, I helped to develop the concept and programme as well as to co-facilitate over the course of the entire workshop.




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