Chris Downs headshot

Chris Downs

World Food Day is observed annually on October 16. It aims to increase awareness of the prevalence of food and nutrition insecurity and encourage action to bring us closer to the goal of a world with zero hunger.

With an estimated 660 million people still facing hunger in 2030, we clearly have work to do, but the global science of food community is up for the task. Thousands of people working in academia, industry, and government around the world are researching, innovating, and developing food. We work tirelessly to ensure food is safe and nutritious. We adjust formulations to ensure food tastes good. We choose ingredients that improve the quality, sustainability, and shelf life.

There is more than enough food to feed everyone on the planet, yet the challenge lies in food availability and access. Despite our best efforts, millions of people cannot afford or obtain a healthy diet. Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact, but it is only one of several factors—including climate variability and extremes, geopolitical conflicts, economic slowdowns, and poverty—responsible for the lack of access to healthy, safe foods for so many around the world.

IFT’s vision—a world where science and innovation are connected and universally accepted as essential to improving food for everyone—is directly aligned with the very purpose of World Food Day. This vision drives our actions as a global community every day of the year.

The Global Food System Challenge hosted by IFT and funded by the Seeding The Future Foundation is one substantial way we are supporting efforts within the global food system to increase food availability and accessibility. The Challenge specifically supports scalable, high-impact innovations that benefit at least one of the following intersecting domains: nutritious food for a healthy diet; sustainably produced; and accessible, appealing, affordable, and trusted by consumers. Last year, three Grand Prize winners, three Growth Grant winners, and eight Seed Grant winners were awarded a combined total of more than $1 million USD. Hundreds of applications are currently being reviewed for this year’s challenge. I look forward to seeing and supporting the transformative innovations these organizations are working on that aim to improve the accessibility of affordable, safe, nutritious, and sustainable food for our growing global population.

"At the core of everything we do, we convene the science of food community to collectively work to address challenges in the food system."

Another significant area in which IFT is working to address food and nutrition insecurity is through its Food Science for Relief and Development (FSRD) Program. Spearheaded by IFT’s International Division, the FSRD Program aims to increase awareness of the essential role of food science in relief and development throughout the humanitarian aid, international development, and food science communities. This important work gives IFT members an opportunity to expand their perspectives while making a tangible impact on relief and development efforts in the poorest regions of the world.

At the core of everything we do, we convene the science of food community to collectively work to address challenges in the food system. This year, at IFT FIRST, two of our featured sessions—“The Role of Food Science in Global Food & Nutrition Security” and “Strengthening the Intersections Between Climate Change, Food Systems, and Nutrition Security: The National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Research, Education, and Extension Priorities”—as well as several on-demand presentations, focused on topics related to food insecurity. If you missed those sessions or were not able to join us, I encourage you to view them in our on-demand library, which is available online through the end of 2022.

Those of us who have dedicated our lives to developing safe, nutritious, sustainable food know this is a year-round effort. And the goal is and has always been to feed everyone, everywhere. I hope you will join me this World Food Day in reflecting on how the work we do as a science of food community can help realize a world with zero hunger and take action in whatever way you can.

About the Author

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