The first panel discussion at National Geographic’s Food: A Forum, “Food Security In an Insecure World,” highlighted the future of food in the context of climate change and political and economic pressures.
Moderator Terry Garcia, Executive Vice President for Mission Programs, National Geographic Society, opened the discussion by asking, “What will it take to meet nutritional needs of an extra two billion people?” Dan Glickman, Executive Director of Aspen Institute and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, responded it would require politics, governance, and research. “More funding is needed for water, sustainability, drought and nutrition, and political leaders need to become part of the game,” said Glickman.
“We need to start investing in things we know work,” stated Food Tank’s co-founder and President, Danielle Nierenberg. Nierenberg explained, “Investing in women, as well as in things that nourish people, such as nutrient dense crops, can go a long way in solving some of the problems.”
Jack Sinclair, Executive Vice President of Walmart U.S., concentrated on food waste, stating it is “morally bankrupt.” Sinclair highlighted the importance of linking politics to infrastructure to ensure there are “roads, airports, and ports to allow the product to get to the consumer.”
Changing behavior on how and what we eat was central to the panel discussion. Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, Deputy Coordinator for Development for USAID’s Feed the Future program, explained there is an educational and behavior change dynamic that is particularly important for urban populations.
Increasing accessibility to fresh, healthy, and affordable food was a central point made by Sinclair. Walmart recently announced it would equate organic food prices with conventional products to “make sure price is not a determining factor in choosing between healthy and non-healthy products,” said Sinclair.
Nierenberg urged listeners to remember solutions are found in things we already know. “We need to invest in the low hanging fruit,” said Nierenberg.
All the panelists highlighted the role of research and collaboration moving forward. Not only should there be collaboration between researchers and politicians, but participatory processes involving small farmers is important for viable solutions. Nierenberg reminded listeners, “We need to understand what farmers need, not just tell them.”