At Food Tank’s inaugural bi-monthly conversation about food and agriculture on Capitol Hill, moderator Frank Sesno, Director and Professor of the Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, guides a second panel on the intersection between food and health to discover which policies can help people feel empowered for change in the food system.
Panelists Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME); Geeta Sethi, Advisor and Global Lead for Food Systems at the World Bank; and Norbert Wilson, Professor of Food Policy at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy discussed the extent to which policymakers equip the public with the information and resources to determine their health and impacts on their food system. “There is a cry from educated consumers—they want more,” says Sethi. “It’s not hopeless. A shift has begun, except not with the urgency the world needs, given all kinds of crises we are facing.”
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“We have to change our diet. We need to change our understanding of food,” says Congresswoman Pingree. “We know that we shouldn’t eat unhealthy things, but a lot of times it’s what is accessible.” According to Congresswoman Pingree, developing and funding programs that target accessibility and affordability are crucial for solidifying dietary, health, and food system change. “Folks are struggling to make ends meet,” says Wilson. “It’s not just about making a program work differently. It is about changing the food system to benefit all individuals regardless of income or where they live.”
For the panelists, the most urgent challenge—and opportunity—to better serve struggling communities is addressing food waste and climate change. “When we are talking about fixing the whole system, there is a bullet—the bullet, not a silver bullet, is addressing food waste.” says Sethi. According to Sethi, addressing food loss and waste would provide 25 percent of the food needed to ensure that everyone in the rising population can eat the meals they need.
Congresswoman Pingree acknowledges addressing it through policy is not the only effective way. “Even if we don’t pass every brilliant bill that we’ve thought up, we’re getting the dialogue going again,” says Congresswoman Pingree. And Wilson invests hope for change not solely in policymakers, but also the innovators working on ingenious solutions to the food system’s problems. “Changing food waste challenges into real opportunities that move food from bins to people is not just something that is going to be solved by government, but it is about what innovators are going to do in this space,” says Wilson.
Conversations About Food: Food Tank Live from the U.S. Capitol is a bi-monthly event in Washington D.C. The next event on July 10 will focus on the intersection of food, AI, and technology. CLICK HERE to claim your free ticket.