Food Systems and Nutrition E-Consultation: Emerging Evidence Research Opportunities


The USAID Bureau for Food Security (BFS) has prioritized a need to synthesize research findings in agriculture, food systems, and nutrition, to identify where evidence exists and where there are knowledge gaps. This information will help drive future research on how to reshape food systems to improve health and nutrition, and will enhance programming to meet U.S. Government objectives and the global Sustainable Development Goals.

To meet this need, the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Nutrition at Tufts University (NIL) published an evidence review in 2019. The review summarizes recent thinking and research findings on how agriculture and food systems affect diets and nutrition; and identifies gaps where work is needed to guide policies and investments in evidence-based programs in low-income countries.

Building on the NIL review, USAID held an e-consultation in November 2019, with support from USAID Advancing Nutrition and Agrilinks, inviting academics, donors, implementers, private-sector actors, and other stakeholders to respond to the evidence review and share their own knowledge and priorities for the food system and nutrition research landscape.

The topics listed in box 1 were drawn from the review and used to organize the e-consultation, which consisted of a webinar to share findings from the evidence review, a week of online discussions, and a survey to validate the online discussions and prioritize research opportunities. USAID Advancing Nutrition hosted the webinar with NIL on November 12, 2019, to introduce the objectives and topics of the e-consultation. Stakeholders were then invited to participate in online discussions to identify additional opportunities for future research and to corroborate or disagree with the opportunities posed in the NIL evidence review. These moderated discussions took place from November 12–18 on Agrilinks, an online platform.

To encourage broad input regardless of geographic location, the discussions were open for the full week, and moderators guided discussions on each topic during two-hour blocks of time during working hours of two major time zones. Participants provided feedback on the research opportunities identified in the NIL evidence review and suggested ideas for additional areas of research. Finally, a survey was circulated on November 22 and was open until December 6, asking participants to prioritize research opportunities identified in the e-consultation and the NIL evidence review.

Nine-hundred and twenty individuals registered for the webinar and e-consultation representing 86 countries and 433 organizations. Of these registrants, 257 attended the webinar and 45 commented during the online e-consultation. Additionally, 266 people responded to the survey, which did not require registration to participate. For more detailed information on participants, see the table in Appendix II.

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