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Towards a "Great Food Transformation": Equity, Values and the Future of Food

Elizabeth Fox, Ph.D. | Hecht-Levi Postdoctoral Fellow, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics

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In her presentation "Towards a "Great Food Transformation": Equity, Values and the Future of Food" Dr. Elizabeth Fox discusses the factors that determine how the population views food and promotes sustainable diets to meet the world's increasing food demands.

Dr. Fox addresses how we can meet the needs of the world's food demands while staying within our reasonable environmental limitations by promoting sustainable diets. Ideally, these diets will have a low environmental impact that still contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. To illustrate this, the World Resources Institute developed a "5 course meal of solutions" which includes reducing demand and increasing production efficiency. While they produce a number of strategies to achieve this, the evidence still points to shifting diets to plant-based foods.

Although better for the planet, are sustainable diets healthier for us? There are important nutrients found in animal products such as Vitamin B12, iron and zinc that are necessary for our health and difficult to get in plants without additional supplements. The overwhelming issue is that the United States consumes too many animal sourced products unnecessarily. Research shows high meat consumption and processed meat consumption is linked to a series of diseases including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Because we know that price, quality and taste are all important factors to consumers, Dr. Fox is on a team that runs the Beef, Food Choice, and Values project. Their goal is to identify policies and interventions that are ethically permissible, effective, and acceptable to stakeholders for altering beef production and consumption practices in the U.S. They aim to identify values and relevant policies for consumers and stakeholders, as well as develop a framework to ethically evaluate different interventions. Through their research, they found that consumers are often looking towards eating healthy and sustainably, but receive mixed information about what to eat. There are major barriers to the accessibility and usability of information, something that Dr. Fox adds needs to be changed.

Because there are a lot of factors not only with consumers but also farmers and production workers that influence what and how we eat, Dr. Fox concludes that we need to be conscious, thoughtful, and respectful of these when we discuss sustainability and shifting diets.

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About the Speakers

About the Speaker

Elizabeth Fox, Ph.D., is a nutritionist and social scientist whose work focuses on improving the design and implementation of nutrition policies such that they effectively reach intended beneficiaries in culturally sensitive ways. She completed her Ph.D. in international nutrition from the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University in 2016. She is currently a Hecht-Levi Postdoctoral Fellow in the Global Food Ethics and Policy Program at the Berman Institute of Bioethics, where her research investigates value tradeoffs across the food system to support healthy and sustainable diets.