Dairy's Role in Helping Develop Nutrition-Sensitive Food Systems

  • Article
  • July 23, 2015

“Reaching the world’s people with adequate food has been a challenge for modern agriculture and foods systems for more than half a century,” concludes the report, Healthy Food for a Healthy World: Leveraging Agriculture and Food to Improve Global Nutrition, released on April 16 by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Malnutrition – from undernourishment to obesity – is a growing global challenge affecting every country on earth and putting a quarter of the world’s population at serious health risk. Dairy companies have taken an active role in helping with this issue, and knowing where we are and where we’re going can help you when answering clients’ questions.

National Dairy Council (NDC) was a sponsor of the report and in early June I was invited to represent NDC for its release in London and share insights about how organizations like NDC and food companies can play a role in advancing food security in this country and around the world.

As a scientist, I understand the need to be cautious about drawing conclusions without sufficient evidence. We need to continue to build the scientific research base that will enable wise decision-making about how our food is made, dietary guidance and population health. But we aren’t there yet, as this review paper explains.

The Institute of Medicine’s recent report, A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System, gives us a good starting point for how to examine the issue. To make wise decisions we need to bring people together from many disciplines, including agriculture, public health, nutrition, food safety, sociology, economics and food companies. This will help us better understand the impact of dietary patterns across environmental, social and economic dimensions of food systems.

NDC, on behalf of America’s dairy farmers and dairy community, has committed to do just that through the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Council. This unique collaboration of more than 100 dairy organizations and 184 experts in agriculture, life cycle research, sustainability and animal science, has worked on projects with over 800 partners to advance dairy sustainability through science, tools, tracking and reporting. Since 2007, as outlined in the 2013 Sustainability Report, we have completed a series of comprehensive life cycle assessments to understand environmental impacts across the dairy value chain, and we’ve built a set of science-based tools to help us measure, manage and minimize those impacts. All while adhering to the guiding principles of our Sustainability Commitment.

This work is closely aligned with what’s going on globally with international partners through the Global Dairy Agenda for Action (GDAA). Eight key global partners, including the Global Dairy Platform, guide the GDAA in the development of the Dairy Sustainability Framework (DSF), a shared strategy for providing safe and nutritious food to people while preserving natural resources and ensuring decent livelihoods across the industry.

As health and wellness professionals, you likely are being asked to know more about agriculture and sustainable food systems and respond to questions on this topic. People want to know that the dairy foods and beverages they enjoy are made responsibly. I hope reading this report and hearing how NDC is contributing to the dialogue and advancing research on sustainable, nutrition-sensitive food systems will help you.