Investors, non-profit leaders, entrepreneurs, corporate executives and policymakers convened in Washington September 28 for the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The conference, the first of its kind since 1969, called for collective action to find solutions for the millions of Americans struggling with food insecurity and diet-related chronic diseases, as well as lay out a transformational vision for ending hunger and reducing these diseases by 2030.
In his opening remarks in front of approximately 600 attendees, including many of S2G Ventures’ partners and portfolio leaders, and broadcasted and live-streamed globally, President Biden laid out the White House’s national strategy to address these issues, noting advancements in science and medicine as well as policies that will alleviate food insecurity, increase access to healthy foods and improve nutrition. “I’m convening this conference because I believe we can use these advances to do even more to make America stronger and a healthier nation,” he said.
The White House announced $8 billion in public and private sector commitments – and the organizations, coalitions, institutions and companies advancing these goals – across five pillars:
Pillar 1 – Improve Food Access and Affordability
Pillar 2 – Integrate Nutrition and Health
Pillar 3 – Empower Consumers to Make and Have Access to Healthy Choices
Pillar 4 – Support Physical Activity for All
Pillar 5 – Enhance Nutrition and Food Security Research
In support of the first three pillars, and referenced by President Biden in his speech, was the Food, Nutrition and Health Investor Coalition (FNHIC), a $2.5 billion call to action over the next three years to improve hunger and health outcomes through food, the FNHIC brings together more than 20 founding partners from across the agtech, food, nutrition, healthcare and financial sectors, among others. S2G is thrilled to lead this coalition alongside Food Systems for the Future.
Following the White House Conference, key stakeholders and partners of the FNHIC joined for a kick-off event to set the ball in motion for the coalition. Here they offered additional comments on the importance of cross-sector collaboration to solve our problems related to food, nutrition and health.
Ambassador Ertharin Cousin, Founder and CEO for Food Systems for the Future, emphasized the importance of public policies, but also that the private sector needs to be engaging, investing and scaling solutions, from the farm to consumers, so that everyone benefits, not just a select few.
“This is a non-partisan effort to change America, and we need to ensure no child is standing in line waiting for food,” she said.
Chef and entrepreneur Jose Andres, a staunch advocate for food access, shared how in his experience as a restauranteur, cooperation among the public and private sectors allows each sector to thrive, and thus, cities, states and countries to thrive. He equated the collaboration to a tennis match, in which, rather than seeking to win, the public and private sectors should aim to keep a continual volley with multiple players on each side.
“When we’re all together, we’ll see that one plus one equals three,” he said. “We don’t throw money at the problem. We invest in the solution. Nothing will be more in the best interests of America than for those commitments to be not only kept, but increased.”
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack rounded it up with accolades for a number of leaders who are guiding the conversation on the convergence of food and health, including U.S. Reps. Jim McGovern and Chellie Pingree, Andres, Cousin, S2G’s Sanjeev Krishnan and Ambassador Susan Rice.
“The greatness of what we’re doing here calls out the best of every single one of us because every single one of us cares about our kids and our country,” Vilsack said. “If we make our kids healthier, we make our country stronger and healthier.
“I’m impressed with the litany of projects that have been announced. If we can build on that, we can make a difference. In 50 years, they’ll talk about this conference like they did the first one.”
Bringing many people and ideas to the table will be imperative to create real change at the intersection of food, nutrition and health. Although COVID-19 and geopolitical conflicts have exacerbated food insecurity and related health conditions and inequities in recent years, technological advancements are leveraging the power of affordable and nutritious food to remediate hunger and improve human health. Stakeholders are recognizing this and putting capital to work. The FNHIC is just the start of a long-term, high-potential journey to realize the benefits of a greater exchange between food and health innovation.