The Food Systems Monitoring Initiative: A Comprehensive Framework for Assessing Global Food Systems

A Multi-Stakeholder Approach to Indicator Selection

In a world where food security, nutrition, and environmental sustainability are increasingly pressing concerns, the need for effective monitoring and assessment of global food systems has never been greater. To address this challenge, a team of experts has developed the Food Systems Monitoring Initiative (FSMI), a comprehensive framework that provides a holistic view of food systems and their impact on human health, the environment, livelihoods, governance, and resilience. This groundbreaking initiative offers a set of 50 indicators that allow policymakers, researchers, and stakeholders to evaluate the performance and progress of food systems worldwide. By employing a rigorous selection process and engaging a diverse range of stakeholders, the FSMI aims to provide valuable insights and drive evidence-based decision-making in the pursuit of sustainable and equitable food systems.

Indicator Selection: A Multi-Stage, Multi-Stakeholder Process

The selection of indicators for the FSMI was no small task. It required a multi-stage, multi-stakeholder process that involved the collaboration of experts from various disciplines and regions. The first stage involved the development of a long list of potential indicators, which was then screened for feasibility, coverage, and transparency. This rigorous screening process resulted in a shorter list of candidate indicators that were further evaluated based on their relevance, quality, interpretability, and usefulness. A survey was conducted among authors and additional experts to quantitatively score the indicators against these criteria, while qualitative consultations were held with over 500 policy stakeholders worldwide to gather input on usefulness and identify any gaps in the indicator set. The final stage involved a thorough examination of the indicator scores, additional suggestions, and gaps that could not be filled, leading to the selection of the 50 indicators presented in the FSMI baseline.

Diets, Nutrition, and Health: A Key Focus of Food Systems Monitoring

One of the fundamental goals of food systems is to support human health, and the FSMI recognizes this by dedicating a significant portion of its indicators to the domain of diets, nutrition, and health. This theme encompasses three key indicator domains: food environments, food security, and diet quality. Food environments are assessed through indicators such as the availability of fruits and vegetables and per capita sales of ultra-processed foods, which reflect the availability of different types of foods. Food security indicators include the affordability of a healthy diet, prevalence of undernourishment, and the percentage of the population experiencing food insecurity. Diet quality indicators capture the actual dietary habits of individuals, including factors that protect against or increase the risk of non-communicable diseases.

Environment, Food Production, and Natural Resources: Assessing the Impact of Food Systems on the Planet

Food systems have a significant impact on the environment, and the FSMI recognizes the importance of monitoring this impact. The indicators in this theme cover six domains: greenhouse gas emissions, land use change, biosphere integrity, water use, pollution, and agricultural production. Greenhouse gas emissions indicators assess the total emissions from production through consumption and waste disposal, as well as emissions intensities of major foods. Land use change is measured through cropland expansion, while water use indicators evaluate the pressure placed on renewable freshwater resources. Pollution indicators capture pesticide use and sustainable nitrogen management, while agricultural production indicators assess yields and their interaction with other domains.

Livelihoods, Poverty, and Equity: Understanding the Socioeconomic Dimensions of Food Systems

Poverty and inequality are pervasive issues in many food systems, particularly in rural areas where agriculture plays a significant role. The FSMI includes four indicator domains that capture the well-being of individuals and communities within food systems: income and poverty, employment, social protection, and rights. These indicators provide insights into the economic value of food systems, the extent of employment opportunities, the effectiveness of social protection programs, and the promotion of rights and justice, particularly for marginalized groups such as women and Indigenous Peoples.

Governance: The Foundation for Inclusive Food System Transformation

Effective governance is crucial for driving inclusive and sustainable food system transformation. The FSMI recognizes the importance of governance and includes three indicator domains to assess this dimension: shared vision and strategic planning, effective implementation, and accountability. These indicators evaluate the presence of supportive policies, participatory processes, and mechanisms for accountability. While there is a need for further research and development of more direct indicators of food system governance, the FSMI provides a starting point for understanding the governance landscape and its impact on food system choices and outcomes.

Resilience: Strengthening Food Systems in the Face of Shocks and Stressors

Food systems are vulnerable to a range of shocks and stressors, from climate change to conflicts and pandemics. The FSMI recognizes the importance of resilience and includes indicators that assess both the contextual elements of resilience and its short- and long-term outcomes. These indicators cover domains such as exposure to shocks, resilience capacities, agrodiversity and food diversity, short-term resilience responses, and long-term outcomes. By understanding the resilience of food systems, policymakers and stakeholders can better prepare for and respond to future challenges.


The Food Systems Monitoring Initiative represents a significant step forward in the assessment and monitoring of global food systems. By providing a comprehensive set of indicators across multiple domains, the FSMI offers a holistic view of food systems and their impact on various dimensions of human well-being and the environment. While there are still data gaps and areas for further research, the FSMI provides a valuable starting point for policymakers, researchers, and stakeholders to understand the current state of food systems, identify areas for improvement, and drive evidence-based decision-making towards sustainable and equitable food systems for all.

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