Tell Our National Leaders: “Healthy Food Comes From a Sustainable Food System!"

There has been a lot of buzz lately about the Scientific Report of the 2015 [U.S.] Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which, for the first time in history, includes environmental sustainability in national recommendations for healthy dietary patterns. This environmental nutrition framing lies at the heart of the Healthy Food in Health Care program and the great work that so many of you do to purchase and serve healthier foods for your patients, staff, and communities.

You are true leaders, already putting into practice the recommendations of the Scientific Report! This Report is testimony to the importance of the work that you do and recognition that more institutions and individuals need to follow in your footsteps if we are to ensure an ample food supply for future generations.

To hear more from the experts, see our blog by Dr. Timothy Griffin, Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment Program at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, who served on the scientific review panel. 

This Earth Day, we are asking you to raise your voice in support of the recommendations linking healthy food and a healthy planet by submitting a comment to the Committee. See below for sample language or write your own.

While the scientific experts have determined that we need to eat more sustainably if we hope to produce abundant food for everyone into the future, there is no guarantee that their recommendations will make it into the final Guidelines, due to be released later in 2015.

As the report states: 

“Meeting current and future food needs will depend on two concurrent approaches: altering individual and population dietary choices and patterns and developing agricultural and production practices that reduce environmental impacts and conserve resources, while still meeting food and nutrition needs.”

The environmental sustainability recommendations are not intended to prescribe what Americans will eat; they focus on patterns of consumption that can both improve public health and the sustainability of our food supply. For example, “…[diet] lower in calories and animal based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet.” The recommendation is not to stop eating meat, rather that a diet LOWER in animal based foods is better for one’s health and will help to preserve natural resources that are vital to our future food supply. 

Share Your Voice

We encourage you to submit your comments this week in honor of Earth Day, but the comment period will be open until May 8. We need to send a strong message to Washington about the critical connection between a healthy, sustainable food system and healthy dietary patterns. Indeed, we cannot have one without the other. 

Sample Commentary

I am writing to applaud the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for acknowledging the critical relationship between what we eat and how it is produced. This environmental nutrition concept, which recognizes that not all vegetables are created equal, is of great importance to the long term food security of our population and the health of our planet.

As a (health professional, food service director, clinician…) within the health care sector, we are responsible for feeding staff, patients and visitors on a daily basis. We have begun to adopt practices such as reduction of meat on the menu and procurement of local produce in season because it’s not only good for people’s health, it’s a step to ensure sustainable food production capacity for future generations.  

I urge the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to incorporate the sustainability recommendations into the final 2015 Guidelines. Their inclusion will spark an important national dialogue, one which my colleagues and I are excited to join.

Thank you for your consideration.