Principles of a Healthy, Sustainable Food System

Project Overview

In June 2010, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Diatetic Association), American Nurses Association, American Planning Association, and American Public Health Association met to develop a set of shared food system principles.

For the first time, national leaders in the nursing, nutrition, planning, and public health professions worked collaboratively to create a shared platform for systems-wide food policy change.

Endorsed by coalition members, the principles were written to support socially, economically and ecologically sustainable food systems that promote health — the current and future health of individuals, communities and the natural environment.

Collaboration among the coalition organizations will enable greater communication and coordination among the professions, from the local to national levels. The coalition plans to build upon the principles by continuing to advocate for improved food systems. Efforts are under way to coordinate with other health, nutrition, and planning related organizations and to connect the food system interest groups of each organization.

These principles should not be construed as endorsement by any organization of any specific policy or policies.

The Principles

We support socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable food systems that promote health — the current and future health of individuals, communities, and the natural environment.

A healthy, sustainable food system is:


  • Supports the physical and mental health of all farmers, workers, and eaters
  • Accounts for the public health impacts across the entire lifecycle of how food is produced, processed, packaged, labeled, distributed, marketed, consumed, and disposed


  • Conserves, protects, and regenerates natural resources, landscapes, and biodiversity
  • Meets our current food and nutrition needs without compromising the ability of the system to meet the needs of future generations


  • Thrives in the face of challenges, such as unpredictable climate, increased pest resistance, and declining, increasingly expensive water and energy supplies

Diverse in

  • Size and scale — includes a diverse range of food production, transformation, distribution, marketing, consumption, and disposal practices, occurring at diverse scales, from local and regional to national and global
  • Geography — considers geographic differences in natural resources, climate, customs, and heritage
  • Culture — appreciates and supports a diversity of cultures, socio-demographics, and lifestyles
  • Choice — provides a variety of health-promoting food choices for all


  • Supports fair and just communities and conditions for all farmers, workers, and eaters
  • Provides equitable physical access to aff ordable food that is health promoting and culturally appropriate

Economically Balanced

  • Provides economic opportunities that are balanced across geographic regions of the country and at different scales of activity, from local to global, for a diverse range of food system stakeholders
  • Affords farmers and workers in all sectors of the system a living wage


  • Provides opportunities for farmers, workers, and eaters to gain the knowledge necessary to understand how food is produced, transformed, distributed, marketed, consumed, and disposed
  • Empowers farmers, workers and eaters to actively participate in decision making in all sectors of the system

A healthy, sustainable food system emphasizes, strengthens, and makes visible the interdependent and inseparable relationships between individual sectors (from production to waste disposal) and characteristics (health-promoting, sustainable, resilient, diverse, fair, economically balanced, and transparent) of the system.

The creation of these principles was made possible by a Food Systems and Public Health Conference Work Team grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.