Nutrition for Growth Side Event

Community Ownership Key to Good Nutrition

November 24, 2021 – More than 95 activists for community-led nutrition action met to emphasize key community-led strategies and share three case studies.

Good nutrition requires not only affordable access to nutritious food, but an entire local system of community-owned programs – what has often been termed a “food environment.” As identified in the Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition (Bhutta 2013), it requires a multisectoral approach of nutrition-specific programs (such as supplements, dietary diversity, nutrition education) and nutrition-sensitive programs (such as women’s empowerment, agriculture, food systems, education, employment, social protection, and safety nets). The 2013 Lancet studies found that it requires community ownership to reach the segments of society most at risk.

The “Who” — The Movement for Community Led Development (MCLD) – a civil society initiative comprising 75 INGOs and 1500+ CBOs – hosted a side event on effective community-led action as part of the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit 2021 .

The “What” – Community Engagement has been recognized as a key accelerator in the SDG 3 Global Action Plan (WHO 2019) and Unicef has established minimum standards. (Unicef 2020)

MCLD members have extensive experience with these systematic approaches to transforming food environments (Coonrod 2019) and food systems (Coonrod 2021). 

The “how” – The side event was a virtual 90-minute interactive dialogue with leaders from Asia, Africa and Latin America who have facilitated implementing multisectoral nutrition strategies which combine nutrition specific and sensitive programs, and pay particular attention to how to mobilize community understanding, ownership and initiatives. Some of the topics to be explored include:

  • How community leaders can learn to effectively bring Essential Nutrition Action (ENA ) education to even the most isolated families particularly to adolescent girls and young women who are often confined to their homes.
  • How women’s groups have led successful campaigns to halt child marriage and keep girls in school – critical steps to reduce early pregnancy.
  • How grassroots citizens can organize to exert collective voice in order to effectively establish working partnerships with health, social development and agriculture ministries.
  • How indigenous communities have reclaimed nutrition-rich traditional foods and overcome the popularity of “junk food.”
  • How communities were able to emphasize good nutrition as a key component of the response to protecting communities during COVID-19.


  • Luz Dania Velasquez, Alcance Nicaragua
  • Grace Chikowi, THP Malawi, on a partnership with Unicef to reduce stunting through implementation of evidence-based high-impact nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions at scale in two districts of Malawi.
  • Prof. Pierre Kayodé, and Prof. Nadia Fanou-Fogny of the University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin, who collaborated with civil society on a national campaign to promote use of Moringa leaves for better early-childhood nutrition.
  • Moderator: Gunjan Veda, Senior Advisor and coordinator of Global Collaborative Research, MCLD.


Bhutta, Z.A. et al, Evidence-based interventions for improvement of maternal and child nutrition: what can be done and at what cost? The Lancet,Maternal And Child Nutrition| Volume 382, Issue 9890, P452-477, August 03, 2013

Coonrod, J. et al, Transforming food environments through community-led action, UNSCN 44, p 153-159. 2019.

Coonrod, J. Systems Thinking for Community-led Food Systems. Submission to UNFSS, March 2021.

Coregroup, 2015. Understanding the Essential Nutrition Actions and Essential Hygiene Actions Framework.

UNICEF, Minimum quality standards and indicators in community engagement.

WHO,, 2019.

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