Global hunger soared as a result of the pandemic, but now the conflict in Ukraine is exacerbating the problem. Because Russia and Ukraine together account for 30% of global wheat exports, a large portion of the world is going hungry.
With a $105 million plan to improve food access, make nutritious and healthy food more widely available, and advance food production in environmentally friendly ways, one of the country’s largest foundations is attempting to address some of these issues.
The commitment, according to Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, is the largest nutrition effort in the foundation’s history. The Good Food Strategy aims to improve access to healthy and sustainable food for 40 million people around the world over the next three years.
The way the world produces and consumes food, according to the foundation and other experts, is failing people and the planet. As a result, it devised a new strategy in the hopes of shifting the focus away from increasing food quantity and toward improving food quality.
Rockefeller aims to increase access to affordable and nutritious food while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the food system and expanding opportunities for small food producers to thrive.
The announcement builds on the Green Revolution of the 1960s, which was one of philanthropy’s most successful efforts. Rockefeller funded technology that helped fuel food production in the world’s poorest countries, preventing starvation. It lacked, however, long-term viability and equity. Officials with the foundation say that’s what today’s effort is aimed at.
Barron Segar, president of the World Food Program in the United States, agrees that immediate action is required. In 2021, Rockefeller gave the program $3.3 million to provide nutritious food for African school food programs.
Last year, Rockefeller released a report examining how the United States’ food systems affect health, the environment, biodiversity, and livelihoods. In 2019, Americans paid an estimated $1.1 trillion in food production, processing, retailing, and wholesaling costs, according to the report. However, if other costs, such as the impact of the food system on climate change, are factored in, the annual cost rises to $3.2 trillion.
One of Rockefeller’s grantees has been putting some of the Good Food Strategy’s ideas into action.
FoodCorps, which received at least $500,000 from the foundation last year for its work providing healthy food to schoolchildren, has already had some success in changing food policy.
Last year, FoodCorps helped pass the Free School Meals for All Act in California. In Connecticut, the nonprofit assisted the state in establishing its first farm-to-school grant program, which will increase the use of local foods in school meals, provide educators with more resources to teach students about nutrition, and help the state maintain relationships with local farmers.
In addition, Rockefeller is collaborating with Kaiser Permanente on its Food as Medicine program. Three research studies will receive a total of more than $2 million in funding to evaluate healthy food-prescription programs for people who have or are at risk of diet-related diseases. Both groups are also gathering evidence to show that produce prescriptions are healthier and, in some cases, less expensive than traditional drugs.
Another aspect of the Rockefeller plan is to change the mix of people who produce food.
The World Food Program is working to feed 3.1 million people in Ukraine, according to Segar, who visited the Ukraine-Poland border last weekend. Food and drinking water shortages have been reported in Kyiv and Kharkiv, two of the war’s hardest-hit cities. The World Food Program’s resources, on the other hand, are starting to run out.
According to Segar, the Rockefeller Foundation takes a unique approach to improving food production, which his organization is attempting to emulate. He explained that the foundation not only gives money but also educates the public about food and makes decisions based on data and research. He cited the “True Cost of Food” report by David Rockefeller, which examines the impact of food on people and the environment. Rockefeller’s Periodic Table of Food, an attempt to create a database that breaks down food composition, is also mentioned by Segar.