Leverage the U.S. Food System to Fight Global Malnutrition

April 16, 2015
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs suggests public-private effort.

The U.S. should use the power of the agriculture and food sector to reduce malnutrition globally, says a new report by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, released April 16 in Washington and endorsed by a bipartisan group of 30 senior policy, business, scientific and civil society leaders.

Malnutrition – from undernourishment to obesity – is a global challenge affecting every country and placing more than one quarter of the world’s population at risk. Given that nutrition is driven largely by the food people eat, making nutrition a priority in developing our global food system could give billions more people access to the healthy foods they need to thrive, drive economic growth in poor countries and increase the incomes of 2.5 billion small-scale farmers, many of whom themselves are malnourished.

"The healthcare and lost labor costs associated with malnutrition are burdening governments and economies, and the social costs it inflicts are unacceptable,” said Ambassador Ivo Daalder, president of The Chicago Council. “Food plays such an important role in health, and it is critical that all those involved – agriculture, food, nutrition and health leaders – work together to solve the problem.”

Specifically, The Chicago Council report recommends that:

  • The U.S. 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.
  • The U.S. government, in partnership with universities and research institutes, increase funding for nutrition research to expand access to nutrient-rich foods and address malnutrition.
  • The U.S. 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.
  • 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.

“For too long the agendas of the agriculture, nutrition and health sectors have been disconnected,” said former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, co-chair of The Chicago Council advisory group that drafted the report. “With the ever-increasing global prevalence of chronic disease driven in part by malnutrition and shortages of nutritious food in many countries, it is imperative that we make nutritious foods more widely available and affordable.”

The bipartisan advisory group that produced the report, Healthy Food for a Healthy World, was led by Catherine Bertini, distinguished fellow at The Chicago Council and former executive director of the U.N. World Food Program. The report was released at the council’s annual Global Food Security Symposium, which drew more than 350 policymakers, corporate executives, scientists and senior leaders from international and nongovernmental organizations.

Speakers at the event included:

  • Shawn Baker, Director, Nutrition, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr., President, Purdue University; former Governor, Indiana
  • Jeff Fortenberry, Member, U.S. House of Representatives (R-NE)
  • Julie Gichuru, TV Host and Entrepreneur, ARIMUS Media Limited
  • Mark Hyman, MD, Chairman, the Institute for Functional Medicine; Director, Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine
  • Robert H. Miller, Divisional Vice President, Research and Development, Scientific and Medical Affairs, Abbott Nutrition
  • Gregory R. Page, Executive Chairman, Cargill
  • Stefan Schmitz, Deputy Director-General and Commissioner, One World – No Hunger Initiative, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany
  • Tom Vilsack, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture

The Healthy Food for a Healthy World report can be found at: http://www.thechicagocouncil.org/publication/healthy-food-healthy-world

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