Chris Downs headshot

Chris Downs

The challenges around food and nutrition security are nothing new. Global experts from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines have been confronting the issues and their root causes for decades. Yet despite incredible efforts, people continue to go to bed hungry and die from preventable chronic diseases every day.

According to the United Nations’ 2022 Sustainable Development Goals Report, “the aspirations set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are in jeopardy.” That includes Goal 2—end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture—which continues to be thwarted by climate variability and extremes, conflict, economic shocks, and growing inequalities. Much like the rest of the world, the United States has yet to end hunger and the prevalence of diet-related diseases continues to soar.

On September 28, the Biden-Harris Administration hosted the first White House Conference (WHC) on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in more than 50 years. This historic event convened more than 600 stakeholders, changemakers, and citizens with a common goal—to strategize, share, innovate, and commit to end hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030, so that fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases like diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.

IFT was honored to be invited to participate in the event, with Senior Director of Government Affairs and Nutrition Anna Rosales in attendance in Washington, D.C. With experts in food science, nutrition, public health, farming, agriculture, policy, and social service, plus individuals with lived experiences meeting together, Anna said the excitement and energy was palpable.

"IFT answered the call, outlining three specific commitments to connect food system communities and bring forward science of food solutions for hunger, nutrition, and health."

“I met researchers, chefs, farmer advocates, foodservice gurus, policy writers, student leaders, citizens with lived experiences, and many more. Each had a story to tell. Through the stories, it became clear that wonderful work is being done. It was also clear this work is too often in silos,” Anna shared.

IFT has a unique role to play in helping break those silos and live out our vision of connecting global food system communities. As Anna so eloquently stated, “We all know that food brings people together, but food science is what brings the food system together.”

The White House recognizes this isn’t a problem the federal government can solve on its own. That’s why the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, which was released ahead of the conference, “calls for a whole-of-government and whole-of-America approach to addressing the challenges we face.” It outlines ambitious and achievable actions the Biden-Harris Administration will pursue across five pillars: improving food access and affordability, integrating nutrition and health, empowering all consumers to make and have access to healthy choices, supporting physical activity for all, and enhancing nutrition and food security research. It also includes a nationwide call to action encouraging stakeholders from industry, academia, government, nonprofit organizations, philanthropies, and civic groups, among others, to make commitments aligned with the five pillars so we can collectively achieve the goal.

Following a series of recent virtual listening sessions, IFT answered the call, outlining three specific commitments to connect food system communities and bring forward science of food solutions for hunger, nutrition, and health:

  1. IFT is committed to identifying, highlighting, and communicating the research gaps for the science of food, to help inform both public and private research investment, policies, and government agencies (aligned to WHC Pillar 5).
  2. IFT is committed to continuously sharing leading science on food safety, nutrition, health, and the science of food (aligned to WHC Pillar 3).
  3. IFT is committed to helping elevate food science and technology solutions that help improve food and nutrition security and sustainability (aligned to WHC Pillar 1).

Food science and technology are critical to achieving the goals set out by the Biden-Harris Administration. These goals are also relevant in the global food system. As a mission-driven scientific association, IFT has the expertise, passion, and collective resolve to bring forward equitable and sustainable solutions that help all people have access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food everywhere, every day.

About the Author

Chris Downs, PhD, is IFT President, 2022–2023 ([email protected]).
Chris Downs headshot