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Health and environment
A new foundation was launched 17 March 2016 with the ambition to reform the global food system, enabling us to feed a growing global population with healthy food from a healthy planet.
The EAT Foundation is a major new initiative co-founded by the Wellcome Trust, the Stordalen Foundation and the Stockholm Resilience Centre. The three organisations will use their unique range of experience in health, science, policy and sustainability, to convene experts and decision makers who together can transform the way we eat.
The Wellcome Trust and the Stordalen Foundation will each invest £3 million in EAT Foundation over the next 3 years to support policy and science. The science activity of the foundation will be coordinated by Stockholm Resilience Centre.
"A healthy planet is the only option if we want to provide healthy diets for nine billion people, conversely healthy diets will support a healthy planet. This is the virtuous circle at the heart of the EAT Foundation," says centre director Johan Rockström.
People and planet health
The impact of the global food system on the natural world and on human health is severe. From the obesity epidemic to rising global temperatures, food production and consumption are major drivers in many global trends and the list of indictments against it is growing.
Without reform in the next 30 years, as the world's population increases and climate change continues, these problems will be magnified. But the extensive impact of food also means that reforming the system is an unmissable opportunity to have decisive positive impact on the health of people and the planet.
"We need a Food Revolution 2.0, which is as much about quality and sustainability as quantity"
Gunhild Stordalen, Founder and Director of EAT and Chair of the Stordalen Foundation
Many people recognise the need for change, but efforts to help are often restricted to a single issue, lack a holistic understanding of the current system or fail to gain traction without political support or commercial backing.
For example, the low price of red meat in the UK is a concern for health professionals because eating too much red meat is a risk factor for obesity, for environmentalists who know that rearing animals for meat produces large amounts of greenhouse gases, for retailers who compete to sell meat at ever lower prices and for beef cattle farmers who frequently operate at a loss.
If these communities could address these challenges in collaboration rather than in isolation, the potential benefits for both individual wellbeing and the global environment are great, but there is currently little precedent for them to work together.
Bridging the gap
The EAT Foundation will break down established barriers between sectors and bring together policy makers, industry leaders, researchers and civil society to develop solutions that are practical and have support from all sides. The foundation will act as a catalyst, funding and supporting collaborations between individuals and organisations across the globe, with a focus on producing realistic solutions that can be put into practice and have a big impact, all within a short time frame.
To begin with, the EAT Foundation will focus its work on three topics: Metrics for health and sustainable food, multifunctional landscapes and seascapes and consumer behaviour and choices.
The EAT Foundation builds on the work of EAT Initiative, created by the Stordalen Foundation in 2013, which hosts the annual EAT Stockholm Food Forum. The third EAT Stockholm Food Forum, in June 2016, will provide a meeting place for around 500 progressive thinkers from science, business, politics and civil society, who will spend two days working on these issues.
Previous attendees include former US President Bill Clinton, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Jeremy Oppenheim, Director of Sustainability at McKinsey and Paul Bulcke, CEO of Nestle, as well as representatives from the WHO, the World Bank, UNFCCC and CGIAR (the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research).
The forum will act as a springboard for projects which will then be supported by the EAT Foundation, ensuring that the outcomes of the meeting are actions, rather than words.
The future of food
"We need a Food Revolution 2.0, which is as much about quality and sustainability as quantity. The global food system is driving some of our time's greatest health and environmental challenges, such as the epidemics of obesity and non-communicable diseases, climate change and loss of biodiversity," says Gunhild Stordalen, Founder and Director of EAT and Chair of the Stordalen Foundation.
"Despite their intertwined nature, these food-related challenges have mainly been handled in siloes. However, to catalyse a transformative shift in the global food system, that delivers healthy nutrition to a growing world population, we need an urgent multistakeholder effort across sectors and disciplines. The core objective of the EAT Foundation is to drive new interdisciplinary knowledge and facilitate translation into policy development and business actions," she continues.
As well as helping to translate research findings into policy making or business, the EAT Foundation will facilitate researchers to work collaboratively with other stakeholders and inform how research is understood in a commercial or political context. This could highlight opportunities for so called 'co-benefits' where one change, or a suite of changes, could have multiple benefits, beyond the principle intended outcome.
For instance researchers investigating whether urban agriculture is a viable way to introduce more fresh produce into the diets of city dwellers could collaborate with local authorities, the real estate sector, healthcare workers and restaurant owners, to monitor how using land for urban agriculture effect the property market, consider potential health benefits for people who visit or work on city farms, or measure the reduction of air pollution from cutting the number of food deliveries into town centres.
From research to action
"Understanding the connections between our food, our environment and our health is vital if we are to fully understand the challenges the world faces. That's why Wellcome Trust has made investing in research in this area a priority," says Clare Matterson, Director of Strategy at the Wellcome Trust.
"But research alone will not drive the transformative change that's needed – evidence needs to be translated into action, which is exactly what the EAT Foundation will do. It will help decision-makers use research to build a healthy future for people and the natural world that we all rely on."
Other topics that the EAT Foundation plans to address in the longer term include the economics of food systems, stewardship and culture and synergies, trade-offs and spillover effects.
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