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The Rockefeller Foundation Calls for Transformation of the U.S. Food System to Address the Hunger and Nutrition Crisis

NEW YORK, July 28, 2020 – With levels of hunger and nutrition insecurity exploding during the pandemic and resulting economic downturn, The Rockefeller Foundation today issued a call to action to transform the U.S. food system to meet immediate needs while also putting in motion the systemic shifts necessary to make the food system more resilient, nourishing, sustainable and equitable in the long-run. Among the immediate steps called for by The Rockefeller Foundation are: ensuring that school meal programs have the ability to feed all children whether their schools are open or closed, and including regional and local food systems in stimulus packages with a particular focus on Black, Indigenous and communities of color, which have been harder hit by the effects of the pandemic.

The Rockefeller Foundation today released its latest paper entitled “Reset the Table: Meeting the Moment to Transform the U.S. Food System.” In addition to immediate steps, the paper identifies three fundamental, longer-term shifts that need to be made in the U.S. food system towards: an integrated nutrition security system; reinvigorated regional systems to better balance the nationwide food system; and equitable prosperity throughout the supply chain.

“Hunger and nutrition insecurity are at crisis levels in the United States and is 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.”

Prior to the pandemic, the USDA had estimated that 37 million people in the U.S. struggled with hunger. Last month, the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern reported that since the pandemic began, food insecurity had doubled overall and tripled among households with children. The increase has been even more pronounced among Black and Hispanic households, with the increase in food insecurity for Black households at double the rate as for white households.

As the hunger and nutrition crisis grew this spring, The Rockefeller Foundation convened a series of virtual roundtables and other conversations with more than 100 leaders and experts from farmers and food industry executives to social justice, environmental, health and nutrition advocates. The conversations focused on what was being learned about the U.S. food system during Covid-19, including the underlying, systemic challenges that are impacting the system’s response to the pandemic and how those challenges can be resolved. The disproportionate negative impacts of the pandemic, including the economic downturn and rising levels of hunger and nutrition insecurity among Black, Indigenous and people of color, was a recurring theme throughout these conversations. The insights and ideas generated by these roundtables and conversations informed the Foundation’s paper.

In addition to identifying these three fundamental shifts in the U.S. food system, the paper also identifies a series of immediate actions, including enabling schools to provide free meals to all children and putting in place programs to ensure that children do not miss meals even when schools are closed. Other immediate actions include rapidly expanding equitable access to Produce Prescription programs, medically tailored meals and other programs that enable healthcare providers to connect patients with healthy food. The Foundation also called for relief and stimulus policies to fund improvements in the resilience of supply chains and strengthening of local food systems with a specific focus on Black, Indigenous and communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19.

“This paper is just the beginning,” said Dr. Shah. “We offer some immediate actions here, but all of us need to work together over the coming months and years to write the transformation playbook together. Whether you care most about child hunger or workforce protections, family farmers or fair wages, market efficiencies or racial equality, climate change or national security, all of us should be fighting for a food system that’s sustainable, nourishing, equitable and just.”

To learn more or download the paper, please visit: https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/report/reset-the-table-meeting-the-moment-to-transform-the-u-s-food-system


About The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation advances new frontiers of science, data, and innovation to solve global challenges related to health, food, power, and economic mobility. As a science-driven philanthropy focused on building collaborative relationships with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation seeks to inspire and foster large-scale human impact that promotes the well-being of humanity throughout the world by identifying and accelerating breakthrough solutions, ideas, and conversations. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at rockefellerfoundation.org and follow us on Twitter @RockefellerFdn.

Media Contact

The Rockefeller Foundation
Amy Auguston
aauguston@rockfound.org
+1 (516) 830-0198

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