Inclusive Food System
A Buying Model delivering healthy & affordable food to vulnerable people by transforming their communities in inclusive economies
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Large NGO (over 50 employees)
If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.
Over the past year Gestarsalud brought together a most diverse multi stakeholder group with organizations collaborating on a bold national plan for nutrition. Our vision includes the need to integrate new financing and innovative models (The BC.lab), the importance to leverage multiple sets of data (Quadratyx), targeted initiatives through geo-mapping (LynxGlobal), measuring in real time (TOPL), engaging the private sector (Impact2030), building on the agriculture ecosystem (SuperSolidaria), involving hybrid models (Association of Foodbanks), innovating through a national network of Climate Launch Pad (Universities/Academia), strengthening a national network of health professionals and nutritionist (Gestarsalud) as well as working closely with Presidencia in the development and implementation of the Vision2050. This group of like minded organizations works closely with local leaders representing cultural groups (Indigenous, Afro-Colombians) to reflect the cultural aspect of food.
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
Santa Fe de Bogota
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
Colombia is located in the North Western region of South America, abundant agricultural & freshwater resources, and exceptional biodiversity
What country is your selected Place located in?
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
Over the past 18 years our organizations have helped the government of Colombia to reach close to 96% of health coverage. Our clients, more than 13 million Colombians, are part of the subsidized healthcare and reside in some of the most vulnerable communities in Colombia. Our members, cooperatives and mutuals work closely with the subsidized population to help them address some of their most basic needs.
While Universal Health Care coverage is a major accomplishment, the system remains largely reactive. We understand that food is at the center of all social determinants of health and that moving towards a proactive system was the only solution.
Through their offices, in 90% of the Colombian territory, Our cooperatives and mutuals have developed a close working relationship with the communities they serve. This relationship goes beyond treating diseases. It focuses on delivering health prevention solutions (ie. nutrition)
The areas in which we find more challenges are commonly known as “barrios populares” and this is where most of our targeted population resides. These neighborhoods are home to the largest displaced population, migrants, gangs, and mostly informal workers. While food is abundant in the rural areas , these neighborhoods are plagued with food deserts, due to lack of health and affordable food options. These areas are also home to a variety of cultural groups with, sometimes, diets that are specific to their territory, ethnicity, and heritage.
We see nutrition and food as an integral part of culture. Food is necessary, food is life, but it’s also the way we express ourselves, communicate, relate to our own history. Food is woven into so many elements of human existence and Colombian communities, with the very act of cooking and food preparation, marking a huge shift in our evolutionary history.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
Colombian food culture is rich and diverse as the different geographic and cultural regions of the country have strongly maintained their culinary identity. Many dishes in Colombia have Spanish influences but it always reflects the people’s great love for their land, its harvests and the waters that surround it.
Colombia is placed between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, covered by the Amazon rainforest and crossed by the Andes Mountains. This equals to lots of different microclimates and a plethora of ingredients to play with. Cooking traditions are also influenced by the availability of food resources which is why every Colombian has a distinct taste when it comes to their preferred native foods.
The Amazon region is all about being tropical. Boas are highly valued in the cuisine of the Amazon. You will eat what you can get your hands on, including turtle which is prepared in what seems like a million ways.
The Atlantic Coast has tons of African and Middle Eastern influences. When you think of the Atlantic (Cartagena, Barranquilla, La Guajira, and Santa Marta), think of coconut, snapper, armadillo, iguana, and lobster.
Fruits and aromatic spices rule the area that is home to Bogota, the capital city. Cundinamarca is colder than the rest of the country and that means comfort food: ajiaco, hot chocolate (with cheese) tamales, huevos pericos and so much more.
Colombia’s plains are a hard environment, its people are nomadic and they were forced to make do. This region offers wild boar, freshwater fish, and wild birds.
In the Pacific Coast- you will most likely end up in Buenaventura, Guapi and Tumaco. The coast is, of course, a place where seafood and shellfish reigns. The region has not just ocean, but also rivers so you get a mixture of both fresh and saltwater fish varieties. There are tons of exotic fruits that are made into refreshing juices. The region is not just fish though, there are plenty of exotic animals that are hunted by locals.
Although most Colombians live in urban areas (~80%), many Colombians in the rural areas are having difficulty with access to government funded programs. The unique geography of Colombia is also creating challenges to reach communities. Indigenous people, afro communities are among the most affected.
What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
As a result of its position and physiography, Colombia has an enormous diversity of climate zones, together with abundant agricultural and freshwater resources, an exceptional biodiversity and a wealth of natural resources. Its agriculture is characterized by technified monocultures by region (such as sugar cane, coffee, flowers, cotton, banana, plantain, sorghum, maize, rice, African palm, potato and cassava). There are crops for domestic consumption, while high value crops such as coffee, sugar cane and African palm oil are exported. Agriculture in Colombia will be seriously affected by climate change, both in terms of food security and agricultural socioeconomics.
In relation to food and nutritional security (SAN), Colombia ranks 10th in the Food Sustainability Index and the ninth in sustainable agriculture, and although the percentages of malnutrition have decreased, they still persist in low income as well as indigenous populations. A total of 12,5% of the population is undernourished. The country reflects the nutritional transition of its population, and has problems of both underweight and overweight in all the population groups. Climate change mitigation and adaptation activities have been undertaken to address the challenges of sustainable agricultural production. Despite the current budget reduction for Science and Technology, colombian scientific and technological capacities are solid, with a long history, and there have been developments in alternative solutions to boost agricultural productivity in the diverse farming systems with territorial considerations. The aim is to boost the agricultural supply to guarantee food security and promote agricultural exports and farmers’ welfare.
Approximately 13,2% of children under 5 in Colombia suffer from chronic malnutrition. A total of 42,7% of the country’s indigenous population live under conditions of food insecurity.
There are several factors that affect the situation in rural Colombia and represents a huge challenge: the incidence of armed conflict; limited access to goods and services such as drinking water, aqueducts, sewage systems and sanitary solutions; energy; health and food security. A total of 57,5% of rural households are food-insecure, compared to 38,4% of urban households.
Annual agricultural output growth rates have fluctuated over the past two decades with a relatively low growth rates of 1.6% inc 1990. The main economic obstacles are the low yields per hectare of the farmers, the lack of transport infrastructures and the production, transformation, and aggregation of agricultural value, low use of productive planning instruments and the incipient mitigation of agro climate risks and access to productive land.
Innovation in last mile delivery through solutions such as Rappi, Uber Eats, Groupon, and Amazon has taken place in high-income areas. Nothing has been done to date to address the food access gap for the majority of low-income Colombian families.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Gestarsalud brought together the largest and most diverse group of organizations and individuals committed to change the food system as we know it. It all started around the vision of Coomacovalle who understood that through collective purchasing, they could lower the price on food, create a hybrid model for food distribution, provide opportunities for smallholder farmers to access markets, and improve access to nutritious food for the vulnerable families in its community
In order to address the critical issues of malnutrition and food security, a multipronged strategy involving intersection of agriculture, health, and nutrition needed to be developed and implemented. Policymakers and practitioners in the agriculture, nutrition, and health sectors, while working in their respective target areas, collaborated to accelerate the effort for delivery of adequate and good nutrition, good health, and promote enable sustainable agricultural growth.
Counting on the effective analysis of the socioeconomic data from vulnerable populations and agriculture data helped foster collaboration between industry, food processing, the financial sector, smallholder farmers, and a population in need. As the process gained momentum and participants managed to reduce the cost of food, their health status improved, and professionally were formalized. The information shared is becoming extremely useful for the community as a collective.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
Our vision has helped shape policy and investments towards a sustainable food system that benefits all Colombians. The vision and strategy was constructed around the informed collective purchasing power of 13+ million Colombians.
Information Technology has become one of the major pillars to connect consumers smallholder farmers and local producers. Through the effective use of data, smallholder farmers and producers now have the opportunity to connect directly and efficiently with nearby communities.
The 13+ million low-income families who individually didn’t have any purchasing power are now being organized in collective purchasing groups that substantially lowers the cost of food as well as give them access to healthy food. Something that wasn’t available to them before.
The 1620+ offices of Gestarsalud that used to focus on patient-care, are now converted into centers of information on nutrition and wellness, preventing the development of nutrition related not transmission decrease, and also generating new and sustainable income for Colombia’s social healthcare system.
Knowing that diet is one of the biggest drivers for health as well as climate emissions, our efforts brought together consumers interested to share information in order to lower the cost of goods as well as improved their health status.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Our vision was constructed as part of a series of discussions, forums, and events that have touched all regions of Colombia. Our members, their affiliates, and even in the communities are aware that nutrition is front and center to a healthy life and a sustainable health system. A series of surveys from nutritionists and community leaders helped inform the cultural aspect of food in the different regions of Colombia.
This vision went from a focus on food security to nutrition for all. It is built on a unique partnership between health, agriculture and finance. Gestarsalud has strong national presence in some of the most vulnerable areas in Colombia that are home to a wide variety of cultures and vibrant local foodstyles. The initial project was to create a movement around the inclusive economy that unites 13+ million low income Colombians into a force that is changing the legacy food system.
This is a concerted effort of the Government, Academia, the Private Sector and the Development Community in order to clarify a path forward, focusing on moving beyond projects and evidence from randomized, controlled trials towards developing large-scale programs with sound plausibility design to achieve results for all.
Information Technology is crucial in helping to make informed decisions and offer options to consumers. Based on preliminary research conducted by Oxfam in Malawi it is particularly encouraging that households changed their agricultural practices through on a relatively short period of information dissemination through mobile phones (Valverde 2016). Using this existing technology that had been field tested helped our users (the collective) to gradually make adjustments in their food choices and agricultural practices
Local purchasing groups informed smallholder farmers about their needs, and regions traded food that could not be produced locally.
The alarming pace of food biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation at a global scale, and their impact on poverty and health has made a compelling case for re-examining food-agricultural systems and diets. As a greater percentage of the population now resides in large urban centres, the use of vertical farms have provided an opportunity to reduce transportation challenges and access to food for low-income families.
Building on the UNICEF framework, considering the World Health Organization’s building blocks for health systems (WHO 2010), and broadening them to include the producer, consumer, and nutrition sub-systems, we are identifying several cross-cutting factors that influence, interact, and impact one another and its nutrition outcomes. These include:
policies and governance;
financing and markets;
information and communications;
infrastructure, resources and supplies;
service delivery and production; and
the sociocultural environment.
We believe that together these factors form multiple interdependent systems that shaped our food vision for Colombia.
Through a combination of market readiness, new financial mechanisms and platforms, the private sector is now investing in more projects than ever before. Though these project-based partnerships have shown to be effective in introducing new products, services and actors into markets, the bigger wins are in the investments which crowd numerous new actors and investments into the development space. To reach the growing number of low income populations with some purchasing power, structural reforms capable of lifting nutrition standards were developed and implemented.
Harnessing the private sector to transform the food chain and deliver improved nutrition required a strategic approach that brought about structural changes in food markets. One of the best examples of this - as a model - has been the fortification of staple foods. Here partnerships between role-players – governments, food producers and civil society - have triggered structural changes.
Partnering with the CIAT, we built on the model and experience of mass food fortification around more targeted products, and through mass based education campaigns linked to health and nutrition. Policies and regulations were also developed to improve quality and quality control, and encourage the supply of nutritious foods along the value chain. This leadership model puts government at the centre as a facilitator, and investors (public and private), producers and consumers in the delivery chain of success. We understand that where the market can deliver, it can deliver big, and in ways that donors and governments can never afford.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?