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Rockefeller Foundation Calls for Reforming US Food System

August 11, 2020 by Gracie Kreth
A center pivot irrigation system on cotton crops, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019, near Wolfforth, Texas. [Brad Tollefson/A-J Media]

NEW YORK – The Rockefeller Foundation has published a paper calling for immediate action to reform the U.S. food system. Amid the pandemic and deep economic downturn the country is facing, food insecurity has escalated, particularly among Black, Indigenous and communities of color.

The Foundation is reporting the number of children regularly missing meals is five times greater now than it was early in the pandemic. In fact, 14 million children are now missing meals. As almost 95% of COVID-19 related deaths are among people with an underlying condition, many may be due to poor nutrition.

“Hunger and nutrition insecurity are at crisis levels in the United States and are likely to get worse, particularly with regard to children, as we move toward the fall,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, president of The Rockefeller Foundation. “This crisis has aggravated shortcomings in the U.S. food system that have been clear for some time, and now is the moment for us to work together to resolve them and to ensure access to healthy food for all.”

With a paper entitled “Reset the Table: Meeting the Moment to Transform the U.S. Food System,” the Foundation identified three necessary and long term shifts in the system — to strengthen nutrition, reinvigorate regional systems and promote equitable prosperity throughout the supply chain. 

Within these three main goals, the Foundation identifies immediate action including investing in school food programs as centers of community feeding, guiding the purchasing power of large institutions along equitable, ethical and sustainable supply chains, and providing credit, loan, and debt relief for farmers and ranchers. 

As children prepare for either online or in-person school this year, the Foundation demands systems be established to ensure schools can feed children regardless. With an emphasis on healthy, nutritious meals, the Foundation warned of the health risk of poor diets.

“Investing in healthy and protective diets will allow Americans to thrive and bring down our nation’s suffocating health care costs,” the paper reads. “Poor-quality diets are the leading cause of rising costs, yet the health care system places little to no emphasis on nutrition. One of COVID-19’s legacies should be that it was the moment Americans realized the need to treat nutritious food as a part of health care, both for its role in prevention and in the treatment of diseases.”

The paper was released after video conferences conducted by the Foundation earlier this summer, hosting a discussion among 100 experts and leaders in areas within agriculture and social justice. The paper was released at the end of July.

“We saw this paper as the beginning of a longer conversation around these issues,” Director of Program Influence Amy Auguston said. “A lot of it is having conversations with key stakeholders in different sectors within the food system.”

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