- Advertisement -Newspaper WordPress Theme
Pollution & HealthJessica Fanzo Looks at How Food Connects With The whole lot Else

Jessica Fanzo Looks at How Food Connects With The whole lot Else

Whole Food Systems: Jessica Fanzo Looks at How Food Connects With The whole lot Else

Emily Halnon
|March 9, 2023

Jessica Fanzo can be joining the Columbia Climate School faculty in July.

Jessica Fanzo has at all times been fascinated by food — something that she says could also be linked along with her Italian American upbringing, where food was central to her family and culture. Now a number one scholar within the transdisciplinary field of food systems, she can be joining the Columbia Climate School faculty in July.

Fanzo involves the Climate School from Johns Hopkins University, where she was the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Global Food Policy and Ethics and the director of Hopkins’ Global Food Policy and Ethics Program.

She focuses on the interconnectedness of agriculture, health, and the environment. Her research goals to enhance food systems to deliver healthy, equitable, and environmentally sustainable diets. She has over twenty years of research and field experience working across the globe on food systems policy and food security. And, she’s served as an adviser for organizations including USAID, UN organizations including the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN Committee on Food Security, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the World Bank.

Her latest position can be her fourth tenure at Columbia, as she previously worked on the Earth Institute (which now forms the core of the Climate School), where she served because the director of nutrition policy on the Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development, in addition to the nutrition director on the Center for Global Health and Economic Development. She has also held roles on the Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the School of International and Public Affairs, and did her postdoc on the College of Physicians and Surgeons back in 2000.

Are you able to share more in regards to the focus of your research?

My research covers 4 fundamental areas. The primary is food systems analytics, which involves gathering data to assist decisionmakers understand the state of food systems — and make more informed policy decisions about the right way to ensure food systems are delivering foods which might be healthy, equitable, and environmentally sustainable. I’m working on two major initiatives on this realm, including the Food Systems Dashboard and the Food Systems Countdown Initiative. The Dashboard compiles food systems data in a visually appealing, accessible way, to offer policymakers with an understanding of a rustic’s food system and the most important challenges it faces. And, the Food Systems Countdown is a collaborative effort of over 60 researchers to discover essentially the most relevant indicators to trace food systems performance and their success over the following decade. This framework can inform higher policies and programs that address food security, diets, nutrition, health, and climate change.

One other area that I’m working on is knowing how foodscapes influence diets, like how different geography, land, or urban environments affect the dietary selections which might be available to local communities. Geopolitics, climate change, and urbanization are changing many places, which, in turn, influences what form of food is grown, available, and accessible. So, we wish to higher understand how places, and the drivers shaping those environments, are changing and the way that influences diets. For instance, now we have a project in Cambodia taking a look at how climate change and the way political decisions, like constructing more dams, are impacting the flow of the Mekong River — and the way the altered flow affects food security and the dietary selections for the communities that depend upon the river. A related four-year project is to higher integrate and use climate services into public health programs that prevent and treat malnutrition in climate-vulnerable riverine and pastoralist communities in Cambodia and Ethiopia respectively.

The third area of research is on the right way to the right way to shift towards healthier and more sustainable diets — and what which means for the livestock sector and with the growing demand for animal-sourced foods. I used to be a part of the EAT-Lancet Commission that laid out broad, global targets, but now the query is the right way to transform food systems in a way that doesn’t create more inequities and injustices, while at the identical time ensures each human and planetary health. It’s the grand challenge of our time.  The role of agrobiodiversity, local and traditional crops, and diversification of production systems can be critical.

And the fourth area of research is examining at the moral debates in food systems policy and studying the right way to integrate human rights into food systems. As an illustration, we all know that climate change, and the ways food systems are governed, are putting constraints on marginalized and vulnerable populations. So, how will we work with policymakers to guard food security and agriculture-based livelihoods amongst those populations and make sure that their rights are protected, particularly amongst those working in food systems in post-conflict and resource-constrained settings? We’ve got a five-year project — “People Centered Food Systems”— that’s integrating human rights into policy dialogues in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Honduras, and Uganda.

jessica fanzo speaks with a malawi woman farmer

Fanzo speaks with a farmer in Malawi. Photo courtesy of Jessica Fanzo

What drew you to this field?

I used to be fascinated by food, and the way the body uses food for wellness. My undergraduate degree was in agriculture, but I accomplished each my masters and PhD in nutrition. I began my profession as a bench science nutritionist, trying to grasp how the human body responds to nutrients on the cellular-molecular level. Over time, I switched to a more public-facing profession in international development — working in nutrition, but through a wider lens to higher understand the connections of agriculture, climate change and food systems with diets, nutrition, and health. Once I began my studies and subsequent research in nutrition, it was a distinct segment field, and nobody took great interest in food. Now, food is in every single place — and food systems are viewed as a very important area of study because they touch upon every sector, system, and person on the planet. All of us engage in food systems each day and make decisions that impact the worldwide food system. And now, with the numerous challenges food systems face, particularly with climate change, we must determine the right way to ensure individuals are food secure, and healthy, without decimating the environment. It doesn’t get more interesting and difficult than that!

What classes do you hope to show at Columbia Climate School?

I believe there’s an actual craving from students to have more classes on food and climate. I’ll definitely teach a food and climate course. And, I’ll explore what sorts of food system classes are currently offered to see how I can contribute. I’m also considering a category on food equity and ethics, which might have a look at why some people don’t have food security or are disproportionately suffering. We’d examine the moral challenges of feeding the world, including climate change and the political economy of food, and consider injustices that exist in parallel with food insecurity — and the right way to overcome them. I believe this generation of scholars, like the scholars of the counterculture movement of the Sixties, is very concerned about injustices and the right way to work toward a more equitable society.

What drew you to the Columbia Climate School? This position is definitely a return to Columbia for you, correct?

I like Columbia. This can be my fourth time here, and I would like to remain.

I’m really excited to hitch the Climate School, especially after being an element of the Earth Institute. There’s space to determine a powerhouse program on food systems, particularly within the context of climate change. I’ll be leading the interdisciplinary Food for Humanity Initiative that can engage schools across the university. It’s a tremendous opportunity to deepen Columbia’s work across food and climate, and to construct a powerful collaborative program, with the Climate School spearheading this necessary work. There are various people doing amazing work on food and food systems across your complete university — and the Climate School might be the convener that brings everyone together to do impactful work right here in the town, but in addition globally.

fanzo holding a cup and listening at a meeting

Fanzo attends a community meeting in Timor Leste. Photo courtesy of Jessica Fanzo

What are your hopes for constructing out the Food for Humanity Initiative?

A lot of that ideation and collaboration will occur once I get to Columbia. It can be a very collaborative effort that everybody can feel ownership over. I’ll spend the primary 12 months really listening to collaborators and meeting everyone who studies or is curious about getting involved in food issues — to seek out out what they’re working on and what their hopes are. I do see three pillars of constructing a collaborative program: research, education, and policy.

Columbia sits in Latest York City, which is an exemplar city that many individuals look to for innovation, and a hub of world activity on policy issues. We’ve got the potential to set a strong example for what can work on food and climate policy initiatives, and interact and exchange with the numerous talented people working on food systems.

Why is interdisciplinary collaboration such a very important component of this work?

It’s super crucial. I call climate change, “the whole lot change,” because every sector, every system, every community, every individual is, and can proceed to be, impacted by climate change. And, food systems are very similar because they’re a multifactorial issue and all of us influence and interact with food systems not directly, shape, or form on a each day basis. The ways in which food systems are connected to health, environment, livelihoods, and equity is a central issue world wide. It’s hard to disregard food systems and climate and their linkages with the way in which the world is moving without delay. So, it’s critical to have multiple disciplines working together on the 2 vexing challenges of climate and food. We want all expertise and all hands on deck to deal with food and climate.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here




We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.




Get unlimited access to our EXCLUSIVE Content and our archive of subscriber stories.


- Advertisement -Newspaper WordPress Theme

Latest articles

More articles

- Advertisement -Newspaper WordPress Theme