10/10/19

Insights from The 50th Anniversary of The White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health

On October 3-4, 2019, Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and Harvard School of Public Health co-hosted The 50th Anniversary of The White House Conference of Food, Nutrition and Health, honoring and showcasing the first conference’s foundational role on U.S. food and nutrition policy. It also explored current challenges and potential solutions in today’s food and nutrition landscape and political environment to set the stage for future actions.

Key themes:*

Every available policy lever should be pulled to drive change. Recognizing the current political gridlock, a variety of presenters remarked on the importance of enacting food and nutrition policies outside of the federal government. They pointed to successes at the state, city and grassroots level to enable progress.

An economic case for food and nutrition policy must be made. Presenters stressed that there will not be policy progress without documenting the economic case for food and nutrition. The food and nutrition community will need to show the impacts of proper nutrition on healthcare spending, etc. to get true political attention.

Socially-driven terms are increasingly entering the food and nutrition dialogue. Social justice, social equity, social determinants of health, and the “human safety net” were all words and concepts used throughout the meeting. For example, “what we consume and how we grow it is part of the social justice conversation.” This indicates different ways of framing food and nutrition topics and warrants a greater understanding to help make deeper connections between concepts.

Other noteworthy phrases: “food is medicine” and “medically-tailored meals.” Speakers representing health insurance and state government indicated how the different sectors are innovating in this space, including produce prescription programs, healthy restaurant zoning and enhanced coverage for food-based interventions such as medically tailored meals. This approach may be a new way to train health professionals to put research into practice. It might also serve to drive new types of nutrition policies.

Regenerative agriculture is hot. Speakers acknowledged rising interest from consumers and researchers, including the suggestion to create a USDA certification for regenerative agriculture.

For our full insights report from The 50th Anniversary of The White House Conference of Food, Nutrition and Health contact us at [email protected]

* Please note: the key themes and takeaways noted were focus points of discussion and presentations; they do not necessarily reflect FoodMinds’ point of view.

Ashley Desrosiers, MS, RD is a vice president at FoodMinds, based in Boston.