Collaboration—and innovation— have taken on a new meaning in health care.Yesterday's FUTURE OF FOOD – Food Security in the 21st Century conference hosted by Washington Post Live was an eye opener. I attend many events in DC, but this one left me feeling an urgency to do more—and to examine ways technology and digital communication can help.While the program was only 5 hours long, Mary Jordan, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, was masterful in blending gut wrenching statistics with directives on changes that must occur for us to live sustainably on this earth.This event was hosted by the Academy and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. This event helped mark the Academy's joining a National Initiative to End Hunger and Achieve Food Security.
It was not surprising there was a mix of political, government, non-profit and charismatic game-changers—who each had advice on how we have to do more with less, be more productive and engage the world in using the best resources to prevent food insecurity.
The good news- our present economy has caused more Americans to be food insecure, which has raised awareness that we are on a slippery slope for food sustainability in the next few decades.
The bad news- our present economy has caused more Americans to be food insecure, which has raised awareness that we are on a slippery slope for food sustainability in the next few decades.
What once was a discussion about "hunger" in countries outside the U.S. has turned into a compelling need to address food insecurity - especially in the U.S. And in case you are wondering - it is not just a case of "not enough food to go around"; it's about poverty, access, choices, inefficiencies in production and use, waste of existing supplies—the list is exhaustive.
We need to double food production on existing land in the US, without expanding unnecessarily to land needed for natural uses.
In the 1940's when food banks were created, the focus was on getting food - any food - to those who need it. Today the focus is on getting good nutrition - via food - to those who are food insecure.
Many Americans are now using SNAP, food banks and other subsidies to prevent hunger—on a monthly basis.
Most people who go hungry, do so because of lack of purchasing power.
I am providing an overview of some speakers and their affiliation, as I hope it will provide a backdrop for more discussion—and most importantly - ACTION!
Dan Glickman (Senior Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center; Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture): He launched the discussion on the Roadmap to End Childhood Hunger in America by 2015.
Jon Tester (Senator, D-Montana): It is always a pleasure to hear this passionate farmer speak so eloquently on how and why we (and Congress) need to do the right thing, how challenging it is for farmers to stay in business when so much of their livelihood depends on mother nature (weather) and how we can create a government program which is a win-win for farmers and the public.
A Table for 9 Billion: Can we Feed the World?
Tony Hall (Executive Director, Alliance to End Hunger): This organization builds partnerships for the purpose of building public and political will to end hunger here and abroad.
Johanna Nesseth Tuttle (Director, Global Food Security Project, Center for International and Strategic Studies) This is a bipartisan international collaborative of global problems and solutions—one of which is food insecurity.
Sonny Ramaswamy (newly appointed Director, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA): The NIFA replaces the former Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Services (CSREES), which hosts the Food, Nutrition, and Health Overview.
Liz Schrayer (Executive Director, U.S. Global Leadership Coalition) This coalition is a group of over 400 business and non-government organizations, national and security leaders, down to community activists who support a “smarter approach to elevating diplomacy and development alongside defense in order to build a better, safer world”. ..such as….helping countries optimize their agricultural capabilities rather than just feeding them.
Lauren Bush Lauren (Co-Founder, FEED Projects): FEED Projects was started in 2006 when acclaimed model and activist Lauren Bush (yes, she is the granddaughter and niece of former presidents George HW and George W Bush, who married the son of fashion mogul Ralph Lauren) designed a bag to benefit the United Nations World Food Program's (WFP) School Feeding operations. he took a special interest in WFP's School Feeding program, which feeds and educates hungry children. As an Honorary Ambassador, created the FEED 1 bag, a reversible burlap and cotton bag stamped with "FEED the children of the world" and the number "1" to signify that each bag feeds one child in school for one year. She now sells a variety of products, each one stamped with how many people or children will be fed with the proceeds. These efforts contributed over $6 Million for undernourished individuals.
Tom Vilsack (U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, USDA): Listening to Secretary Vilsack restores the belief we can do this. He has based his tenure on transparency, efficiency and finding the right solution. He believes we must increase research to improve agricultural efficiency in the U.S. He projects that in the near future, our country could be self sustaining in many ways—using environmental products to make rubber, asphalt and a multitude of every day products we take for granted.
For additional information - the Academy has a Dietetic Practice Group on Hunger and Environmental Nutrition and has a variety of related position papers: Food Insecurity in the United States, Agriculture and Food Biotechnology, Food & Water Safety, and Nutrition Security in Developing Nations: Sustainable Food, Water, and Health.
Don't think this affects your community—take a peek at: Children at Risk of Hunger in Every County.: And for those who might ask: "What does this have to do with health information technology and informatics?" Having the ability to meet and tweet with those also concerned, determining how many are hungry in my county (see above), the SNAP electronic distribution system (which I didn't have space to write about), the ability for live streaming webcast of the conference, and the digital systems which can evaluate a tractor or other farm equipment half way across the world so that the farmer can understand equipment problems and address them--for starters.
Incidentally, this event will be repeated four times at locations across the country. Stay tuned for more details; even if you cannot attend in person—I would recommend listening in via the live stream. It will leave you with a new outlook on personal responsibility.