FERN Meeting 2020


Improving food environments in Africa is an urgent priority. In recent decades, rapid urbanization, coupled with changes in food environments, has been driving the “nutrition transition” in Africa[1]. Dietary habits of people in Africa are shifting towards unhealthy processed foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt. This has resulted in increasing rates of obesity and associated diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs), coexisting with the age-old burden of undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. Africa needs policies designed to create supportive food environments for healthy food choices for everyone. Research is also needed of how food environments are experienced by people, such as, how food environments inside children and adolescents’ homes, schools or communities routinely influence their food consumption. This contextual evidence provides insights into which policies may be more effective in reaching those most in need.

Against this background, the MEALS4NCDs Project will convene the first Africa Food Environment Research Network Meeting (FERN Meeting) in Accra, Ghana from September 1st to 2nd 2020.

About MEALS4NCDs Project

MEALS4NCDs Project is a collaboration funded by The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Food, Environment, and Health Program—IDRC, Canada. This project is focused on measuring and supporting public sector actions that create healthy food marketing and food provisioning environments for children and adolescents in Ghana, with the aim to prevent obesity nutrition-related NCDs. Currently, the project is utilizing methods and approaches developed by the International Network for Food and Obesity NCDs Research Monitoring and Action Support (INFORMAS) to measure and support public sector actions that create healthy food marketing, retail, and provision environments for children/adolescents.INFORMAS is an international network of researchers monitoring food policies and environments globally using shared step-wise methods and protocols.


The FERN meeting will be a gathering of the MEALS4NCDs project team and partners, INFORMAS Network Members, researchers in the African sub-region, as well as those from the Global North, whose work relate directly or indirectly to improving food environments in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Participants will share experiences, best practices, methodologies used, challenges and opportunities for improving research on food environments and related policy in LMICs. The meeting will also serve as a regional platform for food, nutrition and health policy experts, academia, governments, civil society, non-governmental organizations and health-promoting private sector to foster collaboration towards healthier food environments in the African sub-region.

Proposed Deliverables
  1. FERN Initiative: This meeting is an important milestone towards establishing the Africa FERN. The FERN initiative will be built around a critical mass of like-minded experts in or working in the African sub-region. The formation of this network will lay the foundation for robust and innovative implementation of food environment research and practice in Africa.
  2. Training/Workshop on some existing research methods to explore food environments and related policy: This will train delegates on the INFORMAS’ Healthy Food Environment Policy Index (Food-EPI) and Food Prices
  3. The Food-EPI tool and process assesses the extent of implementation of healthy food environment policies and actions by governments, identifies gaps and priority actions, which could improve food environments and strengthen systems to prevent obesity and NCDs.
  4. The Food Prices Module involves “systematically and consistently collecting and analysing information on the price of foods, meals and affordability of diets”. This process yields “robust data and benchmarks to inform economic and fiscal policy responses”, which have the potential to make healthy eating choices easier and cheaper for consumers.

Having received the needed training, FERN members would be encouraged to implement some of these methods in their respective countries.

MEALS4NCDs Partners

University of Ghana; University of Health and Allied Sciences; Ghana Health Service; Africa African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), Kenya; National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), France; Amsterdam University Medical Centers, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands; Sciensano, Belgium, University of Toronto.

MEALS4NCDs Advisory Board

This project is supported by a high-level Advisory Board. They include seasoned academics/INFORMAS Module Leaders, Civil Society, representatives of UN Agencies (WHO, UNICEF), Government of Ghana Health Policy Making, and Regulatory Authorities.

Financial support for attending the FERN meeting

Unfortunately, we do not have enough funds to support travel/accommodation costs for participation in the FERN meeting. Snacks and lunch will, however, be provided free of charge for the two days and there is no registration fee. We do have limited travel bursaries for Africa-based delegates. To apply please visit the registration page included below. 

Funding Acknowledgment

The FERN Meeting/the MEALS4NCDs Project is funded by The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Food, Environment, and Health Program—IDRC, Canada. 


FERN Meeting 2020 Abstract Submission, and Registration:

To submit an abstract click here: Abstract Submission Form

To register to attend the meeting click here: Registration Form

To apply for travel bursary click here:  Travel Bursary Form


For further details, visit the project website: https://www.meals4ncds.org/en/fern-initiative/ or send direct enquiries about the FERN Meeting or the MEALS4NCDs Project to:

Amos Laar, PhD.
Project Principal Investigator
MEALS4NCDs Project
providing Measurement Evaluation, Accountability and Leadership Support (MEALS) for NCDs prevention
E-mail: alaar@ug.edu.ghinfo@meals4ncds.org

[1] Holdsworth, M., & Landais, E. (2019). Urban food environments in Africa: implications for policy and research. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 78(4), 513-525.