EU - Nutrition

The EU is a strong supporter of multilateral initiatives on nutrition  

Nutrition is an important priority for the EU. Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Creditor Reporting System (CRS), suggests that the European Union institutions (EUI, including the EU and European Investment Bank, or EIB) disbursed US$91 million to nutrition-specific projects in 2018. These are projects that are classified under the ‘basic nutrition’ purpose code.  According to data from the Global Nutrition Report for 2020, the European Commission (EC) also contributed US$588 million to nutrition-sensitive interventions in 2017.  

Within this sector, the EU has defined three goals as outlined in its ‘2014 Action Plan for Nutrition’. These are: 

  1. Increasing commitments to nutrition at the country and international level; 
  2. Strengthening human and institutional capacity at the country level, supporting the development of nutrition strategies and policies; and 
  3. Investing in research, information systems, and technical support the implementation of nutrition initiatives. 

In line with their first goal, in 2017,  the EUI disbursed €3.5 billion (US$4.1 billion) for 2014 to 2020 to fight malnutrition through projects agriculture, education, water, and social protection projects (i.e., nutrition-sensitive programs) and has committed more than €8.8 billion (US$10.4 billion) for food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture interventions in 61 countries. Furthermore, between 2014 and 2017, the EU committed to nearly €2.5 billion (US$3.0 billion) to nutrition-related actions. The EC also reported a three-fold increase in spending in 2016 for Nutrition for Growth (N4G) to make sure it could meet its €3.5 billion (US$4.1 billion) N4G pledge for the current MFF. It is reportedly on track to meet its commitment by the end of 2020.  

A variety of initiatives are set by the EC for meeting its nutrition goals. One of these includes addressing ‘hidden hunger’, meaning vitamin and mineral (micronutrient) deficiencies that often go undetected. Under this initiative, the EU aims to significantly reduce the number of children under five years of age, who suffer from growth stunting and associated cognitive under-development. 


Nutrition-specific: Interventions that address immediate causes of undernutrition and have the improvement of nutrition (i.e., support for exclusive breastfeeding, supplementary feeding, etc.) as their primary objective.

Nutrition-sensitive: Interventions that address underlying causes of malnutrition and that take into account cross-sector actions and impacts (i.e., improving access to diverse foods).

The EU is a strong supporter of multilateral initiatives on nutrition

The EU is active in driving support for nutrition multilaterally. The EU and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) launched a partnership in 2015 to support food and nutrition security in 61 countries around the world, called the ‘Food and Nutrition Security Impact, Resilience, Sustainability and Transformation’ (FIRST). The EU is contributing €50 million (US$59 million) — alongside the FAO’s contribution of €23.5 million (US$28 million) — for two five-year programs. The FIRST facility aims to provide policy assistance and capacity development to national governments to improve nutrition and food security. It entails an information program (‘the Information on Nutrition, Food Security and Resilience for Decision Making’; INFORMED for short), designed to increase the ability to cope with food crises by supplying the necessary information and data to policymakers in individual countries.  

The EU also supports multi-stakeholder participation and dialogue through the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, which includes civil society, business, UN, and donor networks for 61 SUN countries committed to delivering progress on nutrition.  

DG DEVCO’s Directorate C ‘Planet and Prosperity’ leads the EU’s nutrition policy development and decision making 

Nutrition policy development and decision-making happen in the EU’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO), which is overseen by the Commissioner for International Partnerships. Directorate C, ‘Planet and Prosperity’, is the lead directorate for nutrition policy, led by Unit C.1, ‘Rural Development, Food Security, Nutrition’. The Heads of Unit for C.1 direct Commission staff working on this sector.