Italy - Nutrition

Italy has shown international political leadership on nutrition issues, though funding is low

Nutrition (and malnutrition in children) is mentioned as a focus area in the ‘Programming and Policy Document’ for 2019-2021 and constitutes a component of the Italian Development Cooperation’s (AICS) broader focus on agriculture and food security.

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).

For many years, Italy has demonstrated international leadership in the nutrition sector. Italy reaffirmed its focus on food security and nutrition during its 2017 G7 presidency, committing support to the UN Secretary General’s call for urgent action in several famine-stricken African countries and pledging to spearhead collective support for nutrition in ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ (SSA; meaning the countries of Eastern, Western, Central, and Southern Africa, according to the African Union’s designations). Despite this, Italy did not make any concrete financial commitments to nutrition during its G7 presidency. However, in November of 2017, the Italian Ministry of Health hosted the Global Nutrition Summit in Milan.


The Food Coalition, an Italian co-initiative with the Food and Agricultural Organization (see sector: ‘Agriculture’), will tackle the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on agriculture and nutrition by creating a platform to share best practices on food insecurity mitigation. Italy co-launched the UN’s ‘2016-2025 Decade of Action on Nutrition’ with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).


Italy is the Donor Convenor for Sudan as part of the ‘Scaling Up Nutrition’ (SUN) initiative, which unites governments, civil society, the UN, donors, businesses, and researchers in a collective effort to improve nutrition. In the context of the G20, the Italian Ministry of Health placed particular focus on the topic of malnutrition. Food system strengthening will be a priority topic during the G20 Joint Ministerial Meeting for Foreign Affairs and Development in June of 2021. Italy will also host the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit from July 19-21, 2021.


According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Italy’s funding for basic nutrition (nutrition-specific activities) stood at US$8 million in 2019. However, Italy’s engagement in the nutrition sector is difficult to quantify precisely, particularly as Italy does not participate in the reporting framework set by the SUN initiative to track nutrition-sensitive interventions.

Nutrition policy is shaped by the DGCS and by AICS offices

Priorities are set by the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation (DGCS), within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development (MAECI). Relevant departments include geographic departments and the unit for multilateral cooperation. Within AICS, the ‘Rural Development and Food Security’ office drives Italy’s policy around nutrition. The Italian ambassador to the UN institutions in Rome also plays a key role in defining priorities on nutrition. The government has strong ties with these Rome-based UN agencies known as the ‘Rome Agri-food hub’.