SWITZERLAND – The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and The Johns Hopkins Alliance for a Healthier World have launched a new online tool designed to inform better food policies.

The new tool, called The Food Systems Dashboard, comes as a unique holistic resource intended to help decision makers understand their food systems, identify their levers of change and decide which ones to pull.

FAO and its partners said that the dashboard will help policymakers, non-governmental organisations, businesses, civil society leaders, and other actors in timely visualisation of national food systems, understand the interconnections across multiple sectors, perform comparisons with other countries, identify key challenges, and prioritise actions.

While acknowledging that food systems encompass an entire range of actors, the partners said that well-functioning food systems can ensure the availability, accessibility, and affordability of nutritious foods for healthy diets.

Johns Hopkins Global Food Ethics and Policy Program Director, Jessica Fanzo said that the dashboard will help policy makers overcome barriers such as lack of accessible, organised and quality-checked data on food systems as a critical step towards developing a coherent food system.

Jessica explains that the Dashboard houses food systems of more than 230 countries and territories by bringing together data for over 170 indicators from 35 sources.

“It will enable stakeholders to compare their food systems with those of other countries, and will provide guidance on potential priority actions to improve food systems’ impacts on diets and nutrition,” Jessica Fanzo says.

GAIN’s Executive Director, Lawrence Haddad added that the Dashboard has the potential to halve the time required to gather the relevant data, helping public agencies and private entities to grasp the “three Ds” more rapidly.

The “three Ds” encompass Describing national food systems, Diagnosing them to prioritise areas for action, and then Deciding on the action to take based on plausible interventions that have been tried in other countries. 

Through the Dashboard, policymakers would also be able to look at long-term average annual precipitation in their country and how this is changing over time in the face of climate change.

This, paired with data on the percent of cultivated land equipped for irrigation, can help inform decisions such as how to best utilize their agricultural water sources to increase yields of key crops, the partners explain.

“FAO is contributing its extensive expertise in making complex food systems information more transparent and accessible to this project and looks forward to further collaboration with our partners and beyond to secure the success of this initiative,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu.