Nutrition Summit Signals New Era for Food System Advocates

May 26, 2010

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director


On April 28 I had the
honor of being a panelist at the National Nutrition Summit,
a dynamite event featuring  national leaders and NGOs all working on
improving the food system.

My biggest takeaway? We are in a new era. It’s an
era where we have the opportunity to partner with national leaders,
grassroots advocates, and state experts all to make improvements in the food
environment. I have never been in an event where there was so much
support from the top down. Presenting at this event were the heads of
the USDA, CDC, FDA, HHS and the US Surgeon
General. This was an enormous
moment, for the leaders of these federal agencies to speak on how their
agencies need to play a role in supporting a food system that promotes
health.

It was unlike any experience I’ve ever had, and it made a real
impact.

I was left with a number of other
thoughts:

  • First of all, there is so much great work going on out there.
    Check out Policy Link‘s work at addressing the Grocery Gap. Or the awesome new
    resource by EcoTrust that connects local farmers to local
    sellers — Food
    Hub
    . Or how about grocery stores that prioritize providing access
    to under-served communities like The
    Fresh Grocer
    . It’s exciting to see all the innovative programs
    going on.

 

  • Second, there is an active
    body of practitioners revising our best knowledge on nutrition and
    nutrition programs. There were presentations from the Institute
    of Medicine
    about the latest recommendations on school food
    standards. Or information about the latest market-based strategies to
    reduce salt from our food system via the National Salt
    Reduction Initiative
    . And my personal favorite was a presentation on
    the efforts to improve the quality of food in the St. Paul public schools as well as provide local produce.

 

What does this new era mean?
While only time will tell, I do think that this national leadership
means that local health advocates have greater access to national
thought leaders than ever before. We now have the ability to share our
grassroots work and support substantive policy change. It doesn’t make our
work simple, it doesn’t mean that funding will suddenly rain from the
sky, but it does make our work to change the food system that much more possible. 

Click here to view transcripts and video from this great event.