I have mixed feelings about this powerful quote from last week’s historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health: “Nobody should go hungry in a country that has abundant food.” It was spoken by Jimmieka Mills, co-founder of Equitable Spaces. She experienced poverty, hunger, and homelessness as a child and now is an inspiring catalyst for systemic change. Her sentiment, simultaneously disturbing, heart-breaking, and abundantly logical, gets to the heart of the equity lacking in our country and should serve as a rallying cry for system-wide transformation.
As a long-time registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), I have experienced firsthand the appreciation those in our field have long had for the gravity of good nutrition. Essentially, it’s “baked right in” if you will. Still, it’s gratifying and inspiring to see the mobilization and momentum outside of our profession around, not just making sure everyone has the food they need, but ensuring that everyone has equitable access to be nutritionally secure.
Much ado led up to the September 28, 2022 White House Conference, and understandably. But, what a letdown when much of the coverage after the fact focused on all the wrong things like technical issues and gaffs. Here, I want to take a different approach and laser focus on the goal at hand – ending hunger and improving healthy eating and physical activity by 2030. TOGETHER. Without silos, judgment, or disparaging any sector or contributor. In an all-hands-on-deck situation like this, no involvement is too big or too small. We just all need to leverage our experiences, expertise, and skills and do our part.
One of the things I love most about being an RDN (and I’m scheduled to talk about this bright and early on at a session entitled “Positive Disruption: Cross-Sector Collaboration to Influence Nutrition and Drive Change” on Monday, October 10 at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo) is how multi-faceted our roles can be. These reports – the Current Federal Programming and Coordination Efforts Related to Food and Nutrition Security and Diet-Related Diseases and the Biden-Harris Administration Biden-Harris Administration National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health are CHOCK FULL of examples of how dietitians are currently making a difference and how the government can support us in continuing our work to improve nutrition security locally, within states, and federally.
But the opportunity does not stop there. As the White House Conference highlighted so clearly, widespread collaboration and partnership will be needed from all sectors to make nutrition security ubiquitous in our country, and around the world. So, whether working in research, health care, government, community-based programming, or the food and beverage industry – RDNs and other changemakers need to embrace their role and the positive impact they can have on many of the direst challenges facing our society!