Good Food from the Bed and the Box

Post by Nancy E. Roman, President and CEO, PHA (@nancyroman1)

Image of a green pepper in the garden of PHA President and CEO Nancy E. Roman.

Harvesting the last few summer vegetables always leaves a tear in my eye. There is very little that I take more pleasure from than plucking something I’ve nurtured from the earth and cooking it for family and friends.

Imagine my surprise when Hugh Welsh, a new colleague from a global, science-based company focused on health and nourishment, told me that my love for locally grown and organic produce was actually a big hurdle to good nutrition in this country. Let me explain…

Here in the Washington, D.C. region, stumbling onto a farmer’s market or a well-stocked grocer with locally-sourced fruits and vegetables is as common as an 85-degree summer day. You’ll even find rooftop or community gardens with produce being shared between neighbors.

In the U.S., organic food and produce has become the gold standard. It’s a standard that doesn’t take into consideration food accessibility or inequity. On the other hand, food fortification, has yet to be embraced by American consumers, even though it’s one of the many ways companies like Royal DSM are tackling global hunger and malnutrition. Dare I say that the U.S. is actually under-fortified?

What Welsh was getting at was the reality: most Americans don’t have regular access to nutrient dense food, let alone organic. When we talk about organic, we’re not considering hidden hunger, access, equity and a whole host of barriers to people living healthier and fuller lives.

Perhaps we, myself included, have been thinking too singularly about nutrition. Even if options are limited, your health doesn’t have to be. There are more and more nutritious options available at corner stores and at local grocers. And not all of those options are on the perimeter.

Frozen, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables still provide, in many cases, the same amount of nutritional value as organic produce. Even still for companies like Royal DSM, perhaps it’s exploring alternative methods, like its micronutrient powder MixMe to address nutrient deficiencies. In my previous roles, I worked with Royal DSM CEO, Feike Sijbesma, who truly understands the realities and notes, “The nutrition a child receives in the first 1,000 days after conception effectively determines whether it is blessed or cursed for the remainder of its life, irrespective of any future healthy diet.”

So while I remain passionate about fresh produce and getting the last peppers from my garden before winter sets in, I’m also going to engage in a conversation about how we make fortified foods more nutritious. We’ll be exploring this and more at our annual Summit.