2020 Year-In-Review: PHA remains passionate about food equity during a year defined by crisis.
by Nancy E. Roman, President and CEO of Partnership for a Healthier America
December 23, 2020
2020 has been interesting, occasionally inspiring, but, too often, tragic. I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of PHA’s work over this past year and to thank you for all you have done to help make food equity a reality for millions of Americans.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted, with devastating immediacy, the gross disparities in access to healthy food for Americans and the consequences of those disparities, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color. Diet-related diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease, already known to reduce both quality-of-life and life expectancy, have been exposed as driving adverse COVID-19 patient outcomes, including death. In response, PHA launched the COVID-19 Fresh Food Fund with tremendous impact. But that is merely one way PHA fought for food equity this year.
And I hope you will Save the Date for our Virtual Summit on April 21, 2021 from 1 pm - 3 pm ET, where we will bring together thought leaders and actors from throughout the food landscape to share their vision for a healthier future. Save the date on your calendar.
We launched the COVID-19 Fresh Food Fund to ensure access to healthy food for communities in need amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2020, the Fresh Food Fund rolled out in Denver, Colorado and Rochester, New York. In both deployments, PHA worked with local distributors to redirect surplus fresh produce to communities in need. This initiative met short-term emergency needs for food during the pandemic, while also reducing food waste and engaging a longer-term conversation around sustainable retail access to healthy food in disadvantaged communities. Through the program and our partners, PHA has distributed more than 1.7 million servings of fruits and vegetables to thousands of high-need households.
We announced Shaping Early Palates and convened stakeholders from across the baby food industry working to improve nutrition for infants and toddlers.
Our ultimate goal is to raise a generation of kids who LOVE eating their veggies and have the affordable access to do so. We worked with seven partnerships with key baby and children’s food manufacturers, as well as early childhood education centers.
PHA announced its first baby food partnership with Sprout Organic Foods. Sprout has met its PHA- negotiated goal of having at least 50% of its product portfolio be veggie-leading — making it a leader in the goal to improve food for infants and children.
Shaping Early Palates Partners also include:
We held our first ever Virtual Summit, where leaders from all areas of the food landscape came together to share their vision for how we can make food equity a reality.
COVID-19 did not stop PHA from sharing our vision for how we can make food equity a reality. PHA’s Virtual Summit was a roaring success, with thousands of viewers tuned-in from around the country, and special appearances from NBA All-Star Chris Paul, CEO of Beyond Meat Ethan Brown, and Former First Lady Michelle Obama.
We welcomed five new food banks dedicated to delivering healthy eating options for their neighbors in need.
Partnership for a Healthier America welcomed five new food bank partners to our Healthy Hunger Relief initiative, all working to deliver healthy eating options to their neighbors in need:
- The Food Group
- Feeding Southwest Virginia
- Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin
- The Maryland Food Bank
- Houston Food Bank
Together they will reach 2,231,909 more people with 49,987,071 pounds of healthier food. PHA’s food bank partners play a critical role in ensuring that communities and families have access to healthier, nutritious foods at times when they might otherwise go without. We are particularly awed by our new partners, who chose to make this profound commitment to the health of their communities during this especially challenging year when American food banks have experienced strain beyond anything in recent memory.
We re-energized our work to shift retail environments, with an eye toward healthier food choices as measured by healthy sales.
In October, PHA and Ahold Delhaize USA, the parent company of leading East Coast omnichannel grocery brands Food Lion, Giant Food, The Giant Company, Hannaford, and Stop & Shop, worked with PHA on a goal to increase to 54 percent the sales of healthier food choices and publicly disclose the percentage of food sales from healthier options in its over 2,000 stores across the country. This announcement marked the largest pledge to increase healthier food sales and transparency from a grocery retailer in the United States.
And in December, PHA, in conjunction with Hank Cardello, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, released new research on the impacts of COVID-19 on consumer trends in food retail that will point the way for food retailers to continue to support the health of their customers in this new environment.
PHA convened global audiences for dialogues from across the food landscape on food justice, kids and healthy eating, and more.
From PHA’s COVID-19 Industry Rapid Response series, to dialogues with leaders from food retail, to virtual events in the lead-up to the 2021 United Nation Food Systems Summit, PHA has created space for important dialogue on food and nutrition, in the midst of our global pandemic. Here’s a snapshot:
- Cooking at Home with FitMenCook — featuring Kevin Curry, FitMenCook
- The Link Between Nutrition and Coronavirus — featuring Dr. Jason Langheier, MD, MPH, Zipongo
- Preparing Our Spaces for Re-Entry and Resilience — featuring Rachel Gutter, International Well Building Institute
- COVID-19 Q&A — featuring Dr. Olajide Williams, Columbia University
- How the Wellness Industry Went Digital — featuring Amaya Becvar Weddle, PhD, MINDBODY
- The Impact of COVID-19 on Grocery Retailers Nationwide — featuring Leslie Sarasin, FMI: The Food Industry Association
- U.N. Food Systems Summit Pre-Event: Emerging Leaders on the Future of Food Systems
- #VoicesofFoodSystems Global Relay
2020 was a unique year full of challenge and uncertainty, but it was also a year of passion and perseverance. PHA eagerly looks to 2021 as a year of hope and opportunity. Food equity equals health equity. And health equity matters. So you can count on us to keep working until we arrive at equity.