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Diversification in agricultural production is key for resilience and also for providing foods that are likely to ensure the consumption of diets that provide the essential nutrients for good nutrition and health. The assumption is that the diversification especially to include non-staples like vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, milk, and nuts, is necessary for ensuring consumption of essential nutrients. However, the prices of non-staples have steadily increased in the last two decades; there are also issues like seasonality and cultural acceptability, eating patterns and knowledge of foods and nutrition, all that may impinge on diet diversification in poor households. The purpose of the session is to explore how agricultural approaches and research [partnerships] can contribute to sustainably meeting nutrient requirements of poor households through diversification of diets.

The session will explore: (a) the role of indigenous (and sometimes forgotten) foods in traditional communities to diversify diets, and assess the effectiveness of approaches that could facilitate their domestication and effective entry into the market food chain; (b) the extent to which forests and fisheries products can be used to provide foods needed to improve the diets/nutrition of young children; and, (c) the extent to which biofortified staple foods can be a cost-effective and culturally acceptable means of providing some of the nutrients needed for improved nutrition and health.

New data will raise questions like whether diversification in these contexts really has effect on nutrition and health status and what is lacking that needs research. There will also be a discussion on new innovative tools being developed/used to improve research and programming, specifically in identifying the best combination of foods at different times of the year to meet dietary requirements while considering dimensions like environmental impact, sustainability, cost and cultural acceptability. For example, we shall explore recent developments in the use of linear programming approaches in assessing the place of local foods and dietary patterns for optimal nutrition and health.