Reset the Table: Meeting the Moment to Transform the U.S. Food System – Rockefeller Foundation

COVID-19 – Food Security/United States

Reset the Table: Meeting the Moment to Transform the U.S. Food System
Rockefeller Foundation July 28. 2020 :: 25 pages
America faces a hunger and nutrition crisis unlike any this country has seen in generations. Today 14 million children are missing meals on a regular basis – a statistic that’s five times worse than before the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s even worse for Latino and Black families, which have seen rates of nutrition insecurity spike to 25% and 30%, respectively.

Looking ahead
Covid-19 has made clear that despite the innovation, entrepreneurship, and dedicated efforts of many players across the supply chain, the overall food system does not promote healthy people, a healthy planet, or an equitable economy. As noted, the deficiencies in the system existed—and were recognized by many—long before Covid-19. And they will remain afterward—with significant implications for our national security, population health, economic prosperity, and our environment—unless we collectively choose to address them.

Working together, we have the opportunity and the obligation to transform the U.S. food system to make it more efficient, equitable, healthy, and resilient, both in good times and bad.

By shifting to a system that better integrates public, private, and philanthropic solutions, this country can better address its intractable and growing nutrition insecurity. By reinvigorating regional systems as part of a better-balanced nationwide food system, we can increase the system’s sustainability and resilience. And by eliminating racial disparities and delivering fair returns and benefits throughout the food supply chain, we can resolve the system’s fundamental inequity.

To make these shifts possible, the system needs to acquire and strengthen a set of capabilities that have not been activated systemwide:
[1] Apply true cost accounting to fully consider the direct and indirect costs of the food system;
[2] Maximize taxpayer value by making sure public purchasing generates public good;
[3] Invest in better coordinated emergency response plans;
[4] Modernize data and technology platforms;
[5] Unify actors across multiple sectors in a collaborative advocacy movement.

While the opportunity to realize this vision has come to us under tragic circumstances, it has also inspired the kind of passion, commitment, and innovation that gives us hope the needed transformation can and will be accomplished.

To do so, stakeholders from across the food system and beyond must come together to drive transformational shifts in systems, policies, and practices. We must collectively meet the moment to address immediate need while laying the foundation for the systemic and structural design of a transformed food system.

As we move forward together to “reset the table” of this country’s food system, we must continue to learn from the innovative operational solutions being seen all across the country and incorporate those lessons in future policies and programs. We must also listen to and learn from the activism and protests against systemic racism triggered by the killing of George Floyd and apply this knowledge to the transformative work that lies ahead.

Over the coming months The Rockefeller Foundation will engage with leaders in the many intersecting fields the food system touches to strengthen efforts to address the challenges and pursue the opportunities described in this paper. We are grateful to—and inspired by—those in the field who are leading the way and others who are taking interest in improving our food system for the first time. We look forward to hearing your voice in the collaborative and sustained effort needed to reset the table and transform the U.S. food system to be what this country and its people need it to be.
Now is the moment.