By Erica Oakley, Humanitas Global
Last week our team was in attendance for the Chicago Council’s annual Global Food Security Symposium. Unlike previous years, the 2015 Symposium was an invite-only, fee-based event, creating a more exclusive atmosphere. There were approximately 200 in attendance to discuss the latest trends, challenges and recommendations for the U.S. global food security community.
Speakers and panelists highlighted the role of agriculture and food sectors – and the broader food security community – in tackling the various forms of chronic malnutrition and diet-related non-communicable diseases that are rampant in developed and developing countries alike. Speakers for this year included:
- The Honorable Tom Vilsack, United States Secretary of Agriculture
- The Honorable Jeff Fortenberry, Member, US House of Representatives (R-NE)
- Gregory R. Page, Executive Chairman, Cargill
- Robert H. Miller, Divisional Vice President, Research and Development, Scientific and Medical Affairs, Abbott Nutrition
- The Honorable Dan Coats, Member, US Senate (R-IN)
- Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr., President, Purdue University; former Governor, Indiana
- Steve Davis, President and CEO, PATH
At the event, the Council released its annual report, Healthy Food for a Healthy World: Leveraging Agriculture and Food to Improve Global Nutrition, to outline four key recommendations for the U.S. government to invest in global food security issues. This year, the report urged the U.S. – and the agriculture and food sectors – to reduce the double burden of malnutrition, not only because of the humanitarian impact, but also the economic and security challenges that stem from both being undernourished and obese or overweight. This year’s recommendations are to:
- Strengthen policies to support nutrition-sensitive food systems. “The US Congress commit to a long-term global food and nutrition strategy focused on agricultural development and convene a bipartisan Commission on how to tackle nutrition challenges globally.”
- Expand the research agenda for nutrition-sensitive food systems. “The US government, in partnership with universities and research institutes, increase funding for nutrition research to expand access to nutrient-rich foods and address malnutrition.”
- Prepare the next generation of leaders in food and nutrition security. “The US draw on the strength of its research facilities and universities to train the next generation of agriculture, food, and nutrition leaders both here and in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.”
- Develop public-private partnerships to support nutrition-sensitive food systems. “Government and industry work together to support more efficient and wider delivery of healthy foods, especially through technologies that can reduce food waste and enhance food safety.”
The focus of this year’s Symposium is a timely one. 805 million suffer from chronic hunger, two billion suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, and almost 2 billion are overweight. The economic, health, and social impacts are enormous. According to the report, the “global decline in productivity resulting from chronic disease” will cost $35 trillion; obesity and overweight healthcare costs some countries as much as 4-9 percent of their GDP; and some countries in Africa and Asia are losing up to 11% of their GDP due to poor nutrition.
Fresh fruits and vegetables should be accessible and affordable to everyone, but it will take all sectors – especially the global food system – to make it so. To have a healthy, productive world, we need a healthy one. It’s not only a humanitarian imperative, it’s an economic and health one as well.
Full coverage of the Chicago Council 2015 Symposium is available online.