A fundamental human right is access fully nutritious foods which relieve hunger and also are culturally acceptable and promote health. With respect to nutrition, risks for health can emerge from insufficient availability of (micro )nutrients and/or from a diet that promotes overweight/obesity along with the incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). In many countries, the “double burden of malnutrition” consists of the parallel occurrence of obesity and under-nutrition such as micronutrient deficiencies, leading to retardation of both longitudinal growth and cognitive development. A nutritionally adequate diet, which is also suitable to prevent obesity, particularly for vulnerable groups with a low socioeconomic status, is needed to reduce the prevalence of double burden of malnutrition. National authorities need tools to help them establish food baskets based on available and affordable food that supplies all nutrient requirements while promoting health and is culturally acceptable.
The current study aims to develop these tools by calculating the composition of a healthy national food basket which fulfils four key functions:
(i) includes all known nutrient requirements i.e. a fully nutritional food basket (FNFB) to promote normal growth and cognitive development;
(ii) includes dietary guidelines to prevent nutrition-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and obesity to give healthy national food baskets (HNFBs)
(iii) matches the cultural expectations of the target group(s).
(iv) able to calculate relative food costs in different baskets.
A healthy national food basket (HNFB) will be compiled from a list of nationally available foods. Based on the nationally available foods and their prices, a method for calculating healthy food baskets is being developed by Metropolitan University College and WHO using the application of the “linear programming” algorithm. This algorithm facilitates the definition of FNFBs/HNFBs at the lowest possible cost and, alternatively, for the highest cultural acceptance at a given cost.
In the beginning, the FNFBs/HNFBs will be generated in cooperation with the WHO Regional Office for Europe and this organisation will be responsible for disseminating the information to its Member States (e.g. Romania). The staff from the Metropolitan University College, Copenhagen will carry out the investigations, within its role as a WHO Collaborating Centre (for the time of its existence), and the project is being implemented into the cooperation with the Institute of Food and Resource Economics at Copenhagen University.
This project will contribute to knowledge on how to promote the consumption of affordable, available nutritious foods which promote health, prevent NCDs and protect the environment. The cost-optimized combination of foods with different nutrient profiles will increase the access of groups at risk to fully nutritious diets that help to prevent obesity-associated NCDs. Moreover, this project will contribute to knowledge on how to reduce socio-economic inequities in vulnerable groups and how to flatten the social gradient.
This project aims at finding holistic solutions for families that are facing difficulties to cover a nutritionally adequate, health-promoting and culturally acceptable diet while facing limited financial resources. Due to different eating cultures across different nations, individual national solutions are envisioned.