Youth perspectives on nutrition

Do you find it challenging to eat healthily?

What’s the biggest barrier?

What would you change if you could? 


Earlier this year UNICEF invited young people from 18 different countries to share their experiences with food systems and food environments. Over 700 children and young people highlighted their concerns, found commonalities, and came away with solutions and recommendations to pass along to decision-makers.  


Learn more about the dialogues here.


What they said


Though not everyone’s experience was exactly the same, there were common trends and themes. Food, particularly healthy food, is seen as vital to health and happiness. Young people recognized both its practical use and benefits, and drew larger connections to what it meant to them.  

“Food is more than just what we eat, food is what defines us and a major social factor that brings us together as some foods represent cultures and it brings people together when they come together to eat.” (Kenya) 

Young people factor in nutrition when deciding what to eat, alongside traits like taste and smell. But not everyone can choose the foods they eat, and most do not.   

“Because of our economic difficulties, we cannot get whatever we wish.” (Bangladesh) 

A young girl holds sign reading "Money and information around health diet to eat healthy"

Barriers like food affordability and food availability make it hard to eat healthy even when you have the knowledge of what healthy foods are. Some people live in areas where there is very little fresh produce.

When healthy foods are available, they may lack quality and appeal.  

Factor in high prices, and making healthy choices become even harder

And many young people aren’t educated on what makes food healthy or unhealthy. 

Young people also know that climate change poses a serious threat to global food systems and everyday life. Its impacts are already being felt among many of those surveyed.   

“High unpredictability and uncertainty of weather patterns affect[s] yields caused by climate change.” (Zimbabwe) 

“1. The contamination of [the] marine environment has polluted the seafood. 2. There is [a] decline in... seafood production 3. There is extinction of marine life 4. The influence of biological diversity [means the ocean is vulnerable].” (China)   

Young man holds up sign reading "Changing your eating habits and your environment can help you eat healthier."

All of these barriers can make eating healthy more difficult, especially when they overlap. These conversations make clear that we need to transform our global food systems, including:

  • Production
  • Distribution
  • Consumption

U-Report Quick Stats


Alongside these youth dialogues, U-Report conducted a poll encouraging young people globally to share more perspectives on food. It reached over 22,500 young people in 23 countries. We learned: 

8 out of 10 U-Reporters said they eat healthy and have access to healthy food at home. 4 out of 10 eat unhealthy foods outside home when they hang out with friends
  • Cost (32%), food safety (32%), and taste (25%) were top influences in food decisions.  

  • 39% of U-Reporters stated they eat healthy and have access to healthy food. However, 39% also shared they wanted to eat healthy but did not have access to healthy foods. 

  • 6 out of 10 (56%) participants identified that cost or expense is the top barrier to get healthy food. 

To learn more about the U-Report poll, click here

What should be done

A group of young girls hold a sign that reads "Food forests easy accessible for every child on earth."

"Engage young people [using] ads on social networks, because it is the place most visited by young people, [and they] are the ones who are most interested in a change [and in] thinking about their future and what will happen when they grow up." (Guatemala)

There are five key areas where youth want to see action taken to move the world towards more sustainable and equitable food systems and food environments.

  • Educate everyone from youth to farmers to decision makers about nutrition. 

  • Engage youth and youth leadership in crucial conversations about food systems.  

  • Regulate food policies, prices and promotion to ensure quality and access to healthy foods. 

  • Invest in sustainable foods, practices, and support indigenous communities.  

  • Reduce the impact food systems have on the environment. 

“We are the future of the country and we want the government to engage us in different aspects of food systems.” (Ethiopia)