Feeding 10 Billion By 2050: Creating a Sustainable and Healthy Food Future

Welcome to the forum, live streamed, worldwide,
from the Leadership Studio at the Harvard T.H Chan
School of Public Health. I’m Dean Michelle Williams. The forum is a collaboration
between the Harvard Chan School and independent news media. Each program features
a panel of experts addressing some of today’s most
pressing public health issues. The forum is one way
the school advances the frontiers of
public health and makes scientific insights accessible
to policymakers and the public. I hope you find this program
engaging and informative. Thank you for joining us. [MUSIC PLAYING] DAVID FREEMAN: Hello,
everyone, and welcome. My name is David Freeman. I’m the editorial
director of NBC News Mach, which is m-a-c-h. I’m also today’s moderator, and
I’ll introduce our panelists right away. Starting to my immediate
right, Walter Willett, Professor of Epidemiology and
Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Gina McCarthy, Professor
of the Practice of Public Health in the
Department of Environmental Health at the
Harvard Chan School, and also the 13th administrator
of the Environmental Protection Agency. David Bennell, the Manager
of Food, Land and Water and Member Relations at
the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. And on a Ana Sortun, chef
and owner of the restaurant Oleana here in Cambridge,
and winner of the James Beard Award. This event is being presented
jointly with NBC News Digital. We’re streaming
live on the websites of the forum and NBC News Mach. We’re also streaming live
on Facebook and YouTube. This program will
include a brief Q&A, and you can email questions to
the forum at hsph.harvard.edu. You can also participate in
a live chat that’s happening on the forum site right now. So with a total population of
about 7 and 1/2 billion today, the world is already
pretty crowded and the global population is
expected to reach 10 billion by 2050. How can we feed
that many people? How can we do that while
protecting human health and the health of the planet? One thing’s for sure, I think
the panelists here would agree, we can’t do what
we’ve been doing because current patterns of
food production and consumption aren’t good for our
bodies or for the planet. Earlier this year, the
EAT-Lancet commission introduced a planetary
health diet that offers possible solutions, and
Walter, you’re a part of that, or you co-authored the report. Can you please tell us what
it is, and take us through it? WALTER WILLETT:
Sure, the challenge put to this commission was
to feed the world a diet that is healthy and
sustainable, and by 2050, will reach close to
10 billion people. And as you said, we’re
currently far off track from arriving at that goal. Therefore, the commission really
faced a tremendous challenge. In fact, just to
paint a quick picture, if we look at the nutritional
status of the world, it’s not a pretty picture. We have, still, about
800 million people who are undernourished. We have about 2 billion people
who are overweight or obese, and that number is increasing
rapidly all around the world. And most of the
rest of the world is eating a diet that’s
far from optimal. And to make it more
complicated, as you also noticed, the way
we produce our food and the way we produce
what we’re eating today is degrading the
planet, and really undermining the
resources that are critical to feed the future
population of the world. And then we are adding close
to 2 and 1/2 billion people by 2050. That’s a pretty
daunting challenge, given that, to arrive at a
sustainable and healthy diet for everyone. So to get at this issue,
we broke the process down into several steps. The first was to, using
the best available evidence from all around the world, to
define what is a healthy diet. And I can’t go into all
of the details of that, but if I could have a slide up,
basically, what we realized, putting all the
evidence together, was that there’s quite
a bit of flexibility. And this allows a lot
of diversity of diets from different cultures,
different agricultural systems, but primarily this will
mean a substantial shift from what we’re doing today,
to a diet that is largely plant based, but still has some
meat, some dairy, fish in it. And plenty of healthy foods
in the diet, more nuts, more fruits, vegetables, legumes,
and the amount of fish would increase, given from
what we are doing today. Very briefly, this slide
shows the major food groups, and the vertical line toward
the left of that figure is, essentially, the target
numbers that we came up with to define an optimally
healthy diet. And then the various
bars indicate what different regions of
the world are eating today. And as you can see, we’re
in general, quite a bit over the target
numbers for red meat, but that’s very different
for different countries. Southeast Asia, for example,
is below the target number. So there’s a lot of variability. But toward the
bottom, we see again that the healthy foods fruits,
nuts, legumes, soy products, nuts where we would be better
off with substantial increases. We use several
different approaches to evaluate the
healthfulness of this diet, and they all converge to just
that if we did, our world, move to this these
dietary targets, we would prevent about 11 million
premature deaths per year, which is about 20% to 25% of
the total deaths for a year. So there’s a huge health benefit
of adopting this healthy diet. We then, as a
second step, went on to look at whether
we could possibly produce this diet within
the planetary boundaries. We can’t infinitely produce
more greenhouse gas, use unlimited amounts of water. There are planetary
boundaries that have been defined by
other research groups. And the good news is when
we went through all of this, that it is possible to feed the
world a healthy and sustainable diet by 2050, but it will
require major changes in what we eat, and how
we produce our food. DAVID FREEMAN: Will, and
part of that you mentioned the role of environmental change
in global warming, and so on. That’s going to be a big thing
that we’ll talk about in a bit, but let’s watch a brief
clip at this point that shows how climate change
has been affecting the food that we– affecting our planet. This clip refers to the
year 2000 through 2009, and of course the four
hottest years of record have occurred since then,
in 2015 16 17 and 18. And a warming planet
really does have a big impact on our
systems, our food systems. The video is courtesy of NASA’s
Goddard Space Flight Center. Let’s take a look at that. [MUSIC PLAYING] SPEAKER 1: All of the
events of the past decade, all of our memories,
have something in common. They all took place during the
hottest decade ever recorded since humans began
keeping temperature records about 150 years ago. In the last decade,
the Earth’s temperature rose roughly a third
of a degree Fahrenheit. Since 1880, it’s risen
about 1 and 1/2 degrees. You might say the
Earth’s running a fever, and scientists predict it’s
going to get much worse. Already, we can tally the signs. Global sea level rose by over
an inch during the decade, almost twice as
fast as the average during the 20th century. Arctic summer sea ice declined
by over 300,000 square miles, enough ice to cover the
states of Texas and Kentucky. The vast majority of
climate scientists say evidence for human
caused warming is clear, but less understood is exactly
how this warming will change the complex interactions
between our planet’s land, water, sky, and the
living organisms that inhabit our world. DAVID FREEMAN: So Gina you’re
kind of, as a former EPA administrator, you’re
kind of in a good position to talk about the relationship
between climate and food. So if you would fill us in. GINA MCCARTHY: Well
let me just start by thanking Walter
for doing this report, and all the other researchers. It’s remarkable that it’s
the first time we’ve really ever looked at what
is a healthy diet, and what are the foods
we need, and what does it mean for the planet. It’s great to be
healthy individually. I’d like to still
make sure people are on the planet, as well,
which seems to be a key issue. And I think really that’s
what it’s all about. We have to look, as Walter said,
at how we produce our food. It’s not just about what kinds
of food, but how we produce it. And when you talk about
what kinds of food, we have to recognize that
food is really culturally, and in many cases,
religiously embedded in how people think about their lives. This is a big shift
that needs to begin, or should have begun a long
time ago, in how we look at food and how we get people
to demand food that’s both healthy for them, and meets
their cultural and religious needs. And then secondly,
you have to look at how you produce that food. Right now we have industrial
agriculture, factory farming, that we know is degrading
our environment. And we also know
you have to think about the future under
a changing climate, with droughts and
intense floods, and how do we change the way
we think about growing food to make sure that it retains
the carbon, that you have rich soil, that you don’t rely
on fossil fuel fertilizers and pesticides, that you shift
to organically based farming. And you think about the
best way you can to actually keep farms local, to
the extent that you can, because the third issue
is how do you manage food? Because we waste 40% of the food
between the farm and the table. And then we have to
think about how do we get people engaged in this? We want them to
demand healthy food, but we also want them to
have a rich sense of where their food comes from. I want them to be engaged
in the food process. And I want to think
about how we eliminate that waste by engaging them. Because it’s not just about
what happens from the farm to a manufacturing
or a production shop, it is about what happens
in your own fridge. One of the best things you
can do to stop wasting food is shop your fridge. Understand what
food labels mean. Don’t throw it out before you
need to, but don’t let it hang in the back for a long time. These are small things, but they
engage people in the solutions. And where food is
concerned, it’s personal and we need people
to demand agriculture that is respectful of the
environment, that understands that we’re already in a
changed environment, that takes a look at what’s happening
in Nebraska, and Iowa, and other places where farms are
now destroyed and flooded out. We need to figure out
how to do this better, keep our forests intact, keep
our ecosystems functioning, and figure out how we feed
these 10 million people. I have no doubt
that we can do it. The real question is how
do we engage enough people to make the demands, and make
the shifts in behavior so that this is what we
deliver to the world, and that’s the challenge. And really climate change is the
biggest public health challenge that we face today,
as is our nutrition. We have to blend them together
and think systemically how to make this happen. DAVID FREEMAN: Well, David you
work with the companies that are trying to make some
of these sorts of changes that Gina’s talking about. Tell us about your
role, your organization, and what businesses see
as the big obstacles and opportunities, if there
are opportunities, as well. DAVID BENNELL: I’d be happy to. First of all, I want
to say thank you to the School of Public Health
for inviting me and us here. Lillian, particularly you
and Walter, and a special thank you to the students
in the room and online because I know it’s
break time, and there are many, many other
things you could be doing. But I really
appreciate that you’re here and online and with
us because we need you. Can you queue the
first slide, please. The World Business Council
for Sustainable Development is a Geneva, Switzerland
based organization. We’re in other places
around the world, 200 multinational
companies, and CEO led. We have about 60 network
partners around the world, too. And of those 200
companies, about 80 are involved in the
food and ag space. And they’re ones that
you would think of, but they’re are also companies
like Google and Microsoft, and some of the really
interesting ones that I may touch
on in a little bit. We’ve got six primary
areas of focus. There are six
economic drivers we believe we can most influence. You can see them
there on your screen. Circular economy, citizen
mobility, climate and energy, I’ll skip over food and
nature, that’s the way I work, and I’ll come back to that one. People, we have a really
interesting new program called the future of work. Let’s feed a planet
of 10 billion people, but we should probably
employ them, too. Everyone, not just
people that look like me. And then back to
redefining value, which is a fascinating one. Our CEO likes to
say that accountants will save the world, and
I think he might be right. I mean, we really need to get
financial markets and capital markets to reward the sorts of
things that I think many of us in this room and online believe
in in our financial disclosure and reporting. So we’re working
hard to try and make that happen through
working with the capital markets and the securities
and other agencies that reward them. Food and nature you see there
is the program I work in. About 80 different companies
involved in this space. And we try and work through
this lens of the Sustainable Development Goals. They were referenced just
a couple of minutes ago, so go ahead and tee up
that next slide for me. If you haven’t heard of the
Sustainable Development Goals, there are 17 of them. This cool pin of mine is sort
of the graphic representation of it. So if you ever see
anybody with this on, you can say oh, the SDGs. And if you think about
it, it really is– the what?! You know, the SDGs. They are in 2015, basically
the world, 193 companies. The UN General Assembly
agreed on a path forward. You can call it a roadmap. If you want to be more
politically correct, maybe it’s a bike path. But it is an agreed
upon path forward for how to do this thing that
we call the Earth, sustainably. The goals are set to
be achieved by 2030. That’s a stretch, but what
are if we’re not ambitious. And the slide up here is
one that we use specifically to focus on sort of
the farm and ag space. 17 different sustainable
development goals, 169 targets, and 232 indicators
backing up the targets. But here’s an example of when
we work with our companies, looking at how do we achieve the
Sustainable Development Goals, they oftentimes need
to focus, and should focus on those
SDGs that are most applicable to the business. And then next slide please. I’ve been asked to focus
on technology, which we’ll do in the second half. Here’s a cool one. This is called the CocoaCloud. This is a project you’ll
see with some of our member companies and partners we’re
running in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, using data
enabled climate solutions through mobile phones and other
really interesting applications to help, we hope, up to 1
million smallholder farmers make better farming
decisions based on better ability to forecast
and plan for weather. And as Gina’s just
said, you can’t forecast for what’s happening
in the Midwest right now, but to the extent we
can help farmers better use data to plan their work,
we believe we can contribute to the Sustainable Development
Goals, and as or more importantly to the
livelihoods of those farmers. Thank you. DAVID FREEMAN: Thank you. Well, and Gina, and
I guess everyone, has mentioned to some extent
the one big challenge here is getting everyone to
change eating habits. And the key here is
to make food that is as tasty as it is healthful
and sustainable, and Ana, you’re well known for your
Mediterranean cuisine. And so you’re part of the
work on that delicious part of the equation. So what do you see as
the biggest challenges to bringing this
planetary health diet that Walter was talking
about to people’s plates, and how can cooks at home
and in restaurants help that? ANA SORTUN: Yeah, I think it’s– first of all, it’s an honor
to be with all of you. You guys are changing
the world as we speak, and it’s pretty fabulous. But I think we’ve
all touched upon it, and it really, to me, it comes
down to good ingredients. It can be, in general, hard to
find really good quality food that’s fresh and that’s also got
some health benefit to it, as well, especially when it’s
on a bigger commercial scale. And I think ultimately
it’s easier said than done. How do we buy less commercially
produced, industrialized food? How do we try to
keep it more local, and use smaller
suppliers, especially like when we’re in the
airport, or we’re traveling. It’s just so hard to do
it on a constant basis. But there isn’t enough access
to really good, fresh food, and I think there could be more. And I think from a chef’s
point of view, I mean, fresh equals flavor. And I’m one, I
can’t even imagine. It’s all I really
think about is flavor. I can’t even imagine
not liking vegetables. So I think it’s also a
little bit of a spin. It’s really just sort of
understanding a little bit more about how to find that
flavor, where to get it. Shopping farmer’s
markets, and it gets into sort of an
economical thing now, but I think there’s
so much change, as far as that is
concerned, and a lot more access to locally grown
vegetables for everyone. And then it’s also
in the kitchen. It’s like, OK, how do I
achieve more flavor when I’m cooking without
adding the cheap tricks? And we all know what
the cheap tricks are. It’s fat. It’s sugar. It’s salt. It’s high
fructose corn syrup. It’s all that stuff. And so, you kind of
have to be creative, but not, at the
same time, there’s some really cool natural
high fructose corn syrup, like onions can
be really amazing. Just adding onions
to your cooking, and using a lot of them
can transform things. And for me, I’ve always
been really focused on the use of spice,
and how to use spice in a Mediterranean way. And for me, that’s where
the flavor, the depth, the richness, comes from. And then nothing becomes heavy. So in other words,
you can eat, and you can eat quite a
bit of vegetables, without having it being– without feeling really bad. So finding flavors like– GINA MCCARTHY: She’s
making me hungry. [LAUGHTER] ANA SORTUN: –umami. Umami is another one, too. There’s a lot of umami just
right under your fingertips. So it’s kind of
reinvigorating your pantries, using a little tomato paste
here and there, which is umami. Soy sauce is sort of
a better known umami. A little bit of Parmesan
cheese goes a long ways. So it’s really on how to
change the tools that you have and the way you think
about what tastes good. I mean a donut tastes
good, but so does broccoli if you cook it
with some of these tricks. It really, really does. And I know that’s like
a really sad comparison, but it’s the opposite. It’s the opposite swing
of the pendulum, right? And I think most of
all, I mean, this is one of my favorite
quotes because I’m married to an organic vegetable farmer. But Michael Pollan says that
the deeper the connection we have with the person that
grows or makes our food, it tastes better, right? And then it’s also,
it is about the soil. The soil is, really,
a big difference when it comes to flavor. A tomato tastes so different
when it’s grown in soil– really rich soil versus sand. So I mean, there really
is a difference and sort of being able to figure
that out is the fun part. It’s kind of an adventure. So, yeah would all
organic be ideal? Sure. I don’t think pesticides are
doing any of us any good, but I think it’s a tricky– I think we want to
empower ourselves to be a little bit more
creative to get through some of these challenges, too. DAVID FREEMAN: OK, well I’m
not sure about the donut versus broccoli, but I
guess we can move ahead. So now we’re going
to shift a bit, not to lunch, unfortunately,
but to talking about solutions. But before we,
let’s watch a clip from the World Business Council
for Sustainable Development. It shows some of these solutions
in action, particularly, how new technologies are helping
make farming more sustainable. [MUSIC PLAYING] So David, you work
with companies, businesses that try to make
farming more efficient. Tell us about how that works. DAVID BENNELL:
Well first of all, I want to talk about
the image of cops in broccoli shops
instead of donut shops. I think that would be I think
we’ve had it solved now, if we can move to that. How about that image? And I had nothing to do
with that beautiful video, so I can’t take credit for
that, but it does tee up sort of this great
sort of conversation about how are we
going to do this? And again, because I’ve been
asked to focus on technology, I’m going to give three
different examples. One I referenced earlier is this
idea we call the CocoaCloud. You may not know this, but
it’s climate week in Africa this week, and we actually
launched this thing at climate week. And CocoaCloud is a pretty
straightforward premise that, as you know, many
people around the world carry mobile phones,
and it’s all of us who get to live in places like
we’re living now and watching this from, but it also
includes many farmers in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. And so the idea is could
we create a mechanism that would enable, through
the mobile phone network, to enable these
farmers to make better predictions about
weather, and make better predictions
about when to plant, when to harvest et cetera. So using the mobile phone
network and a series of satellites and a series of
really interesting partnerships against very interesting
bedfellows or bed-people, we’re trying to
work this through. And the application of the
CocoaCloud if we get it right, I referenced it in
the opening comments, it could impact 1 million
smallholder farmers in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire
in the Ivory Coast. So if we get that right
there, the implications and applications are really
interesting for other places and space. So how do we sort of normalize
technology that’s available, and we use every day– it’s OK if some of you
are texting right now. We’re using, as we
speak, to really make some very logical
and obvious solutions available in the field. There’s a great quote that
goes something like, look, unpredictable weather makes
for an unpredictable harvest. Just ask anyone
who’s trying to deal with the deluge in the Midwest,
or drought in other places. So trying to really make
this available and affordable and also contribute to the
equity that doesn’t exist. Not in those two countries,
exclusively, but everywhere. So let’s make this
normal for everyone. There’s another
one, called Loop. Imagine Haagen-dazs
being delivered to your house, like in the olden
days when you had a milkman, and sorry to use that
pronoun, but milk person. We still have that. I live in Maine, and there
are still milk people that will come once in a while. So there actually is
this really interesting, I’ll call it a test, of a
number of different companies across the value chain,
where you can order certain kinds of consumables
that will be delivered to your door door by UPS, in
containers, in a tote, that you then eat, and you then get
online, and you send it back, and it comes back whenever
you’re ready with more Haagen-dazs, or more Dove. So really, I mean it’s
happening now as we speak. If you think about sort of
these old models that are not so crazy, how do we bring them
into the 21st century using the technologies that we have? And then the other one is
something really interesting. I, full disclosure, started
my career at Microsoft, and so I’m going to mention a
project from them, because I know the company well. It’s called FarmBeats. FarmBeats, have you ever
turned on your television, I know some of us on this panel
do know what I’m talking about. You turn on the television,
and there’s a channel that’s just whitespace. Well those white spaces
exist all over the place, including on farms. That sort of television space
is available and underutilized. So there’s a project
that Microsoft is leading through
their AI for Earth, Artificial Intelligence
for Earth project, around the internet of
things to try and capture that white space
and use it on farm. And so you can imagine, a
drone if you can afford it, but a helium balloon
if you can’t, that takes a mobile phone
up, gets a view of the farm, sends the data up
into the cloud, and gets it right back
to you, very quickly, with real time data that you
can use to look at your field. What’s over-watered,
what’s underwatered. Where are the pests,
where aren’t the pests. And that’s being tested
right now by Microsoft in places like Carnation
Washington and in other places. So really interesting sort of
things that some of our member companies are doing, and others
that are nonmembers are doing, and I just thought I’d
tee some of those up DAVID FREEMAN:
Yeah, interesting. So and Gina, we’re talking about
this kind of high technology, but also what can you
tell us about better ways to use the agricultural
land that we do? What are some things that
we need to do with the land? GINA MCCARTHY: Well let
me begin by saying, Ana, you might think that we are
out to change the world, but you rock my world. I’m telling you, your food
experienced is quite amazing. So thank your husband. I had no idea it was part of it. Part of the challenge
that we face is that agriculture
today, at least the way the majority
of it is practiced, it can be considerably
damaging to the environment. I mean, we see it. We see the harmful algal blooms
that are just about everywhere across the United States. Most notably, we
saw it in Toledo, where they had
cyanotoxins created by harmful algal
blooms, that were really a result of runoff that
went into Western Lake Erie, and where the water gets
warmer and climate change, those things happen. And we have to think about
keeping soil in its place. So every time you
till for farming, you have the challenge of
increasing carbon emissions, and you have the
challenge of runoff, that right now even
in the United States, 55% of the river
and stream miles are actually too
heavily contaminated with nutrients from
runoff to be able to have healthy ecosystems. So for many reasons
we need to change the way we think about it. We need to store the
carbon in the soil. Soil is everything. I think people have
always known this, and we have to recognize that
with the exacerbated storms that we’re seeing with
a changing climate is you have to plan for runoff. You have to think
about how you use no till farming where you can. You have to think about how you
use the kind of technologies you’re talking about to be able
to understand where water needs to be used and
where it’s wasted. Because water is going to
compete between drinking water and feeding people. That’s a competition we don’t
want either side to lose. And so there are
ways in which we have to think about
feeding more people, but making our
ability to produce that an opportunity to
reduce the current impacts, and an opportunity to reduce
the methane and greenhouse gases that are being emitted,
without eliminating the best foods that are available
and nutritious for us. And I think it’s a challenge,
but I think by no means is it an insurmountable one. We have regenerative
agriculture that is all about policies and
practices that do exactly this. That use natural systems,
ecosystems, biodiversity, instead of looking at
dead end use of chemicals, where they have nowhere
to go, but in our food or in our water. And so there are ways
in which this is already being explored, successfully,
in so many places. The issue is how do
we scale that up. How do we spread the word. How do we change the
equation for agriculture to shift from being a carbon
emitter to being a carbon sink, which could make
them opportunities for significant resources as
we start really valuing carbon emissions and put
a price on carbon, the way I think everybody
knows and expects will happen. So there’s opportunities
for agriculture to do what they do best,
which is to protect the land and produce our food,
and do it in a way that makes them more economically
viable at the same time. And that’s the win
that we have to go for. DAVID FREEMAN: Well,
so let’s shift a bit from production to consumption. So you’re a nutrition
expert, as well as being part of this
commission, so what does the EAT-Lancet
commission say about what we should eat for health? WALTER WILLETT: Yeah, well
we did spend a lot of time on defining a healthy diet. I don’t have time to
discuss the, really, hundreds of thousands– DAVID FREEMAN:
Donuts and broccoli. [LAUGHTER] WALTER WILLETT: -of
papers we looked at. That we did encourage
nuts, but not donuts. [LAUGHTER] So, again, very broadly without
going into all the numbers, we did suggest more limited
amounts of animal source protein, especially
red meat, because it is a huge emitter of greenhouse
gases for all the time it’s living and breathing,
plus in general, feeding grain to
cattle, in particular, is hugely inefficient depending
on how you measure it. Roughly a 20 to 1
conversion of what we feed cattle to convert it
to editable food for humans. Massively inefficient. And of course the production
of all that grain and soy that we feed to
them has the kind of environmental footprints
that Gina is talking about. So in the end, we came up
with some numbers per se red meat which might be low by
what American expectations are. It’s about 14 grams a day, with
some flexibility around that. That amounts to about
one hamburger per week, or a big steak once a month. And some people would
think that’s small, but actually the
amount of poultry plus red meat that we suggest
in terms of target numbers is a bit more than
what was consumed in the traditional Mediterranean
diet when it was really traditional, before the
industrialization of it back in the 1950s and 1960s. And at that time people had
the longest life expectancy in the world, those men
consuming the Mediterranean diet at that time. Now this is partly
how we think of food, red meat in the Mediterranean
diet is something special. We might have small
amounts in a mixed dish, or as a celebratory
event, and in fact it’s really about
we have to shift our thinking into something
like I consider lobster, which hopefully the Maine
people will appreciate, that I really like it, but it’s
not something I eat every day. It’s a special event. And that’s sort of
how we, I think, need to shift toward thinking
about some of the foods we have in our diet. We have, fortunately,
lots of traditional diets from around the world that
are healthy and sustainable, and the best studied one
is the Mediterranean diet. And we’ve learned a lot using
that as an example in terms of analysis, and one of the
good things about all of this is that we have a
double win situation. We can improve our
health and improve the environmental
impact, in fact, to make it sustainable
in the long run by adopting this, what
some people would call it a flexitarian diet. It’s not a vegetarian
diet or a vegan diet, but one that emphasizes
plant sources of protein. So better health,
better environment, and as Ana has really shown and
that chefs across the country have really shown to,
it can be a triple win, with being marvelously
enjoyable and tasty. To accomplish this, we’ve worked
a lot with the culinary world, in particular our partners
at the Culinary Institute of America, bringing
together major food services around the country, having chefs
really demonstrate and show how to put this into practice. But as some have mentioned
m really starting at home is important. We worked right here with
Harvard Dining Service, and we’ve had good
partners there. We have really changed
our food service in a way that emphasizes
the kind of dietary balance that we’re talking about. And actually our food service
is a destination place that people come from
around the medical area to enjoy the food
that we have here. It’s not just healthy and
sustainable, it’s enjoyable. Some of this has been
behind the scenes. For example, we
worked with before it was widespread to
eliminate trans fat here. So we improved
the diet that way. We reduced the amount of
sodium, carefully and stepwise, so nobody noticed, but even
without paying attention to it, people are eating a much
healthier diet here. But we’ve also we have
a great salad bar. We have creative use
of vegetables and fish. We have a connection
with a local fishermen. We eat here what’s caught. It’s not that we’re ordering
10 pounds of salmon every day or something like that. In fact, I think the fish
are fresher here at our food service than any of the
major restaurants around town because we get it directly,
whatever is caught that day. So there is many people
we have to work with. As Gina pointed out, the
agricultural system, but also the food service system to make
healthy and sustainable eating enjoyable for everybody. DAVID FREEMAN: Well, you
talked about the Mediterranean diet a lot just now,
and Ana your world. And you talked a
bit about things you can do with onions and so on. Any other specific kind of
guidance quickly about what people can do to incorporate
this kind of diet in their lives? ANA SORTUN: Olive oil is
a great trick, by the way. It’s a good healthy fat, that if
you are using a great olive oil It’s adds an incredible
dimension to it. And I think we have to think
of our cooking as dimensional. It’s not just like this way. It’s more round. So you really want to think
about how to maximize flavor. And oftentimes even a vegetable
dish can be flavored with meat. So using broths and
using, in other words, using the meat wisely. So if you’re going to have
that less meat in your diet, just using it to
actually flavor things, which can do
extraordinary things. But again, for me,
the longest time I had cooked for what I thought
was Mediterranean cuisine sort of focused on the
central part of it. And then I was invited to
Turkey and went a little eastern in the Mediterranean,
and that’s where I saw the really exciting
stuff where I almost couldn’t sit down
it was so exciting, and tasting things I– what is this? It’s so rich. It has so much flavor. And then realizing that I had
tasted 30 things for lunch and that’s pretty impossible
to do without feeling bad. And so I realized
after kind of studying this food that the
richness and the depth comes from the spices. And they’re not using the
spices in a heavy way, but they’re using them to
add those dimensions that I was talking about earlier,
which often can be found in a glass of wine throughout
the rest of the Western part of the Mediterranean. DAVID FREEMAN: One
other thing, too. Dave you talked about the
SDGs with your cool pin and all that. So let’s go back to
that for a second. And one aspect of
climate change. I guess a particularly
ominous one, is that it increases
or kind of widens the gap between rich and poor. So I wonder if you
can tell us about how the UN is trying to, using
the SDGs, to prevent that from happening and
getting any worse? DAVID BENNELL:
Well, first of all I live in Maine so
thanks for the shout out to Maine lobster, Walter. We appreciate it. I mean, WBCSD
looks at everything we do through the Sustainable
Development Goals. So if you have not ever
heard of them, that’s OK. You’re normal, but it
really is a powerful– it’s a license to
operate on this Earth. So take a look at it. SDG2 Two, zero
hunger, is where I’ve spent a good portion of this
week working in Washington DC. So if you look at SDG
Two on zero hunger, and you start to look at the
targets and the initiatives, you’ll find it
really drills down to things like gender,
and climate change, and sustainable
consumption and production. Gina, very rightly
mentioned a huge amount of food loss and waste. If food loss and
waste were a country, it would be about the
third or fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gas
emissions in the world. So I mean there’s so
much wrapped up just in the idea of zero hunger. We have a program called
FRESH, which Walter knows well, Food Reform for
Sustainability in Health. And one of the work streams in
there, early on, was focused on nutrition and security. Some of the most nutrition
insecure people in the world, paradoxically and
sadly, are farmers. And you start to
drill down into that and you look at who has the most
nutrition insecure on the farm, it’s women and children. So I don’t have
brilliant answers for you on how to do this, but
if you look at SDG Two and even Google the
SDG Two Hub, you’ll start to find some
really interesting work by amazing people, like
Ana’s cohort group The Chef’s Manifesto, that are
starting to try and put this whole thing together
and trying to figure out how do we challenge this. And the answer is, it’s through
systems, and through systems transformation. And some of you– all
of you can’t see this, but there’s a person
sitting in the front row here that has an amazing
patch on her coat that says break the routine. I think part of this
is, yeah we have to break to break the routine. DAVID FREEMAN: I
wonder if we can– I knew it meant something. I didn’t know what it meant. DAVID BENNELL: You
have seven cameras pointing at you right now. [LAUGHTER] DAVID FREEMAN:
Another thing that I want to talk about,
Gina kind of referenced this earlier about the
idea of food waste, and what are some of
the things that we might do to prevent food waste? As you said it’s such
a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions,
and as well as economic problem. GINA MCCARTHY: Well, it’s
just like anything else, waste comes at every
step of the process. So part of it is
keeping food locally. Part of it is making sure that
food is properly refrigerated. New technologies are
helping that happen, so that you can get
food away from the farm and into our homes and
schools and supermarkets and everything. But part of it is you just have
to look at wherever you are. We talked about the home,
but talk about schools. You mentioned this, Walter. One of the things that the
Office of Sustainability here has not just done working
with the faculty, like Walter, and the students to
improve the quality of the food and the
nutritional value, but they’re also
develop sustainability and healthful food
standards that look at where it’s
coming from, and how I look at the full
lifecycle of the school. And it’s available
online for other schools that want to look at it. It’s at green.harvard.edu/food. It’s a way to just
tell the students what the impact of this food is
so they can choose wisely. The more information we
have, the more transparent, the more you can make good
choices, and that’s important. But when I was at
EPA we worked a lot with the James
Beard Society I went to a lot of their conferences
mainly because they had great food at them, but
mostly because we talked about these issues to get
people involved and engaged, to talk about food deserts
and where they are. Cities now can
manage those issues. They can demand that
supermarkets go in places where people need them most. One of the most
heartbreaking issues I had to deal with it
at EPA was the lead in the water in Flint, Michigan. When I went, there
every street corner had nothing but a small
little five and dime store, a little
store where you could buy cigarettes and a place
where you could buy liquor. I couldn’t find a supermarket. Now, granted, the city
now has in its midst a really nice sort
of a farmer’s market, but we have to address
these inequity issues. There’s no question about it. And we can do that. We can demand more
of businesses. We can work in our
schools to make sure that one of the things they do
is talk at a lot of colleges. What schools have figured out
is if you don’t put trays out, people don’t throw food
away, because trays just allow you to pile stuff on
that you’re never going to eat, but it looks good at the time. Sort of how we always act. Take the trays away. 30% of the waste goes away. There’s tricks to
dealing with human beings because we’re all
kind of quirky, right? And then the other
thing we did is work with supermarkets,
first of all, in how they purchase their food. They overbought,
often, food that was going to be perishable. And then when the food
didn’t look spiffy pretty, they’d toss it away, instead
of sharing it and sending it to other places, like
food pantries or soup kitchens, that can really
make something of this food. So there’s ways in which we
can think creatively about this and not make everything so
hard, instead of integrate it into our lives in
an everyday way. It is only when you really start
to do that you get the breadth and depth of actions that
are essential for our future and our kids health. But when you do that, it becomes
ingrained in your own values and your own behavior,
and it matters. And the last thing
I wanted to mention is that I want to make sure
I don’t leave oceans out, because we talk
about soil a lot. Not particularly
as relevant there. But there is significant
challenge with our oceans today. We now know that our
fisheries are being depleted, not just because
of coral bleaching, but because of the salinity
change in the oceans. And a lot of it has to do with
the ancillary issues related to our lives, like plastics that
are ending up in our bodies, in our blood, in our food,
the micro beads that happen. We have to think
more systemically about these issues. We cannot allow the sort of
things we use around our food to actually end
up in our bodies. And so there’s a lot of work to
be done in that area, as well. And I think it’s part and parcel
of the discussion we’re having. DAVID FREEMAN: OK we’re
running a bit late, so let’s go to
questions right away. And one that came, actually I
think before we came out here. Walter, you and
Dave were talking about eating crickets
or something. So someone is
asking would insects be a good protein source. I guess yes, but
what role crickets play in the world’s food supply. WALTER WILLETT: Well, it
certainly is a hot topic now and we need to
learn more about it, but many cultures have used
insects as a traditional food. From the nutrient content,
it looks pretty good. The reality is, of course,
we don’t have any long term studies that we’d really like
to have, but in the meantime, we think integrating some of
these into our food systems is useful way to proceed. But we should study them as
we go through this process. Insects can also have some
intermediate role, too, taking foods that are high in
cellulose that we can’t digest, and converting that
food to something that chickens or fish can eat. And so there’s some interesting
loops we can put into the cycle there where insects could
play an important role. DAVID FREEMAN: David, any
thing you’d like to add? DAVID BENNELL: Well. The last time I saw Walter
in person cricket bread was served, and I tried it. I think that the bridge there– GINA MCCARTHY: You
didn’t say you liked it. [LAUGHTER] DAVID BENNELL: There was
no jam and butter, but. [LAUGHTER] I think the ick factor
for some people, you can jump over that by
reminding sort of all of us, particularly those of us
that live in New England and there’s a slight
tick problem here, that many animals that
we eat, eat insects. So maybe we flip this
thing on its head, where we’re growing food
to feed animals things traditionally they didn’t eat
for millennia, many millennia. And we remind each other that
in fact crickets and insects are great sources of
food for the animals that we may then well consume. So I think there is a really
interesting sort of construct we could flip pretty quickly
back to what was once normal, and we decided I don’t know
why culturally, was not normal. So, David, I think
probably that’s right so with that, first. Jam and bread. DAVID FREEMAN:
Donuts and broccoli. DAVID BENNELL:
Donuts and broccoli. ANA SORTUN: Ants
before crickets. [LAUGHTER] DAVID FREEMAN: OK a
couple more questions. So I wonder if– someone’s asking
about organic, which has been mentioned here before. And one of the things
that’s often said is that, well, we really can’t
grow enough food organically to feed the world. Can we achieve– the question is
from a viewer in Washington DC, can we achieve feeding
the world’s population with organic
production principles? You want to take that or Gina? WALTER WILLETT: Yeah, we did
look at this in our report, our commission report where we
had agricultural experts there. And I think with today
we would probably not be able to feed the
world with 100% organic, but really applaud and encourage
every effort to produce food in a more organic way. It’s not just a yes/no answer,
but reducing our insecticides, herbicides,
agricultural chemicals is very possible by
employing organic principles. I think one of the
biggest constraints is having enough nitrogen
fertilizer for parts of Africa where yields are extremely low. The long term solution will
involve some organic practices, but in the interim, at
least maybe in the long run, some modest amounts of
non-organic fertilizer probably will be required. So again trying to move in that
direction as much as we can is highly desirable, and
we should learn from that, but just a quick switch
to 100% organic today is probably not feasible. DAVID FREEMAN: So
one more question from my iPad here and then
we’ll go to the audience here, do the panel–
actually, Gina, this is a question
for you because you’re were talking before hand about
some people who are converting lawns and tilling
lawns and growing crops where there once was a lawn. So someone is saying
do the panelists see some of the farming production
reverting to homegrown gardens, and gardeners similar to Victory
Gardens during World War II. GINA MCCARTHY: Oh absolutely. ANA SORTUN: Yes, yes. GINA MCCARTHY: Well
one of the things I mentioned before
we came on was that there was a young man who
I met during the climate summit in California. I was in line, getting
coffee and he tapped me on the shoulder,
and he said, hey, I do this really cool thing. And he basically deals
with young people, and I think he calls it
farms for bikes or something. And they go around
and they go in cities, and they sign people up to be
able to use their front lawn to grow food, and the people get
to really use the food as much as they want, and they
harvest it when it’s ready. And they sell the
what they harvest, and it provides a
little good economic job for a lot of young people. Only it provides
awesome opportunities for fresh food for
those families. Now you have to be careful in
the city that the soil is good, and it’s clean enough to you to
not sort of sneak other things into your food as it grows. But it’s just there’s so much
we could do to be more creative. And to me anything you can do
to personalize these issues, make people have the
power over these things, the better not they’re
going to demand that they have really
strong naturally produced products that
they’ll be comfortable with. And I think it’s great. Everyone can get involved
in these types of issues. DAVID FREEMAN: Thank you. So does anyone have a
question here in the audience. Yes, right here in the front. I think we can get
a microphone to you. AUDIENCE: I’m Lillian Chang from
the Department of Nutrition. And I want to quote
from a recent study, or not study is a viewpoint from
my colleagues in the Friedman School of Nutrition and
Science and Policy and that was published in JAMA, and
at Tufts University there. The farm bill remains a
powerful but under utilized tool for promoting public health. Reducing health care spending
and improving disparities and much more should be done to
fully leverage its potential. Right now in a 2018
allocation we’re talking about 86 billion
allocation annually, and for the CDC it’s
only $5 billion a year and National Institutes of
Health $37 billion a year. And also what’s interesting
is that half the recipients of the farm bill either with
getting Medicaid or Medicare. So they’re not in good
health, and in terms of the recipients from
the farming perspective, it’s still crop insurance for
corn, wheat, soy and cotton. We are trying to get the
public to eat more fruits and vegetables, right? But it’s far from serving it
that amount, and where the farm bill is talking about affecting
70 million acres of farmland. So I would like to ask the panel
how can we mobilize the public on what other measures that– actions we can do to move
the needle in the farm bill. DAVID FREEMAN: Thank you. GINA MCCARTHY: Can I just say,
I actually read that article, and one of the people
who knew I read JAMA. It must have been a
clip somewhere, right? One of the other
fascinating things is how much of the money that’s
invested through the farm bill actually goes just to the
top 17% of the largest farms. So there is a
challenge here, and I think one of the
interesting things when you’re in government and you’re
trying to influence how markets move to make sure that they
protect people’s health is what I did, is there’s
two ways to do it. You can regulate it,
or you can incent it. The farm bill is one
of the biggest tools we have in the United
States of America to incent good public health. But it is generally not
rethought every year with that in mind. And this is one area where
it’s not about Democrats versus Republicans. It is everybody’s all
in for agriculture, but they do the same
thing with the farm bill year in and year out. That ought to be rethought. AUDIENCE: So what can we do? DAVID FREEMAN: Well anyone
else with something? We have to move on
to the end here? Walter did you want
to say something. WALTER WILLETT:
Well, just to add, there’s not a simple
answer to this, and we were up against
very powerful lobbies here. But we do have to look at it
through the lens of health and environment. That’s not the usual
lens that it’s looked at. Now it’s political interest,
and powerful industries. But we also really do want to– another goal is
sustainable incomes for farmers who are really
trying to do the right / And it’s not easy. They’re going bankrupt even
today in large numbers. DAVID FREEMAN:
Well, can you just talk briefly about that,
about the economic aspect of this or impact on farmers
and the agricultural industry in general. WALTER WILLETT: Well, I’m
not an expert in that area. I really am looking
at food, but I did grow up in a farming area,
in fact, a long term farming family in Michigan. And so I do know
firsthand that there’s been a huge aggregation and
the economic incentives, the way they are
today are pushing people toward these mega farms. Small or medium sized
farms are having a very hard time making it. Now some people say we
shouldn’t have any government intervention, but we clearly
are intervening already. And it’s just
intervening in a way that is not supporting health or
sustainability or incomes in communities in rural America. So we really do need to
work with others organizing. This is a political issue
to a large extent, not a scientific issue. DAVID FREEMAN: So
before we wrap up, I just want to ask each
of you to give kind of a brief takeaway message. So why do you just continue
and we’ll move on down. What’s the takeaway there
we should leave with? WALTER WILLETT: Very briefly,
there is a big triple win here for adopting diets that
are both healthy for us and that are sustainable
and that are enjoyable. That’s my bottom line. DAVID FREEMAN: OK, good. Gina? GINA MCCARTHY: What
he said, plus I do think there’s a market
for a broccoli donut. [LAUGHTER] I just don’t know
who’s gonna produce it. ANA SORTUN: Or a cricket donut. broadly DAVID BENNELL: Broccoli
donut with a cricket chaser. I would just end with what
I started with, thank you. And for those of you in the room
that are much younger than me, sometimes I get asked how
I got started on my career and sustainability and if you
look in my rearview mirror it looks obvious. But it’s not. I think you just
have to be curious. And when people ask
me, they’re typically students like some of you who
want to do this sort of work. And the first thing
I say is, thank you. So I would ask you go
find 100 of your friends and bring them on because
we absolutely need you. We’re trying our
best to maybe correct some of the sins of
the past, but it’s going to take all of
us and generations to come to really
get this right. So go find a friend,
better yet find dozens, and convince them to come
over and do this work with us. ANA SORTUN: Yeah,
and for me, it always comes down to the connection,
as I spoke about earlier. And I feel like we’re all
connected in our own ways, and every choice we
make makes a difference. And if you’re just
not thinking about it, and if it’s just food
that’s going to get you through the next
couple hours, or what’s the story behind this,
it starts becoming a little bit more interesting. And I do think, I mean
nobody not everybody has time or space to
grow their own food, but even if you don’t, try to
make a connection with someone that does, improves
our health all around. I just think the
connection and the stories and the people are a
big piece of it too. DAVID FREEMAN: OK, I
think we’re out of time. So thank you very much. Thanks to all the
panelists here. Thank all of you. Thanks to our audience here
in the studio and also online. And before we leave,
I’d like to encourage– I’m going to ask and
encourage all of you to tune into the next forum , which is
entitled High US Health Care Costs, What Might Be Done? That’s on April 4 from
noon to 1 and more details at forum.hsbc.org. So thanks everybody. GINA MCCARTHY: Thanks. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC PLAYING]

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