There is a widely recognized need to increase funding available for improving nutrition in low- and middle-income countries and to move beyond traditional grants from development agencies and private foundations. This includes the so-called innovative financing approaches, such as impact investment (i.e., investing with the intent to generate positive social impact). Impact investment is no substitute for much-needed public funding to support direct nutrition interventions, but such approaches could make sense where supporting nutrition entails a “business case” that could create profit for a business—thus fostering the positive returns needed by investors. This includes some food-based approaches, as most households purchase food from for-profit companies and entrepreneurs. Investment in firms that produce nutritious foods for local markets could be profitable and—if it were to improve food affordability, accessibility, or desirability—could help improve diet quality. In this Perspective, we describe these innovative financing mechanisms and discuss their potential for supporting nutritious foods. We note that doing so would require a simple yet evidence-based approach to screening nutritious foods for potential investment, and we describe our experience operationalizing this through a novel nutrition impact investment mechanism: the Nutritious Foods Financing Facility. We conclude by highlighting remaining gaps to explore the potential of impact investment in nutrition and what the nutrition community can do to help fill them—and to mitigate the risk of such approaches being applied in ways that do not lead to positive social impact for nutrition.
Photo Credit: Huy Phan