Harvard Food Initiative to Benefit People and Planet – Harvard Gazette

“The health effects are massive. About 42 percent of Americans at this time [are obese] “I could spend hours talking about the harmful effects of obesity, from cancer to eye disease, almost every organ in the body is negatively affected,” Willett said. Obesity is a major risk factor for death from COVID, [linked to] Diabetes and high blood pressure. If we were in better shape, we could have reduced by 30-50 percent of the COVID deaths in this country.”

Willett said the solution “doesn’t reinvent the wheel.” He’s been researching what people have been eating for hundreds of years in places outside Northern Europe. Traditional diets in Latin America, Asia and the Mediterranean are low in red meat and rich in fruits, vegetables, and plant proteins, and are more sustainable for personal health and the health of the planet.

While changing national and global diets will take time, what we can do now is think more effectively about the menus we design for our students and community on campus, said Hanif, managing director of Harvard Food Services.

“On our campus we serve about 5 million meals a year,” she said. “As the person who leads the purchase of all the things that are put on those paintings, what do you do [this research] It means for me? Where can I move markets or shape markets with the decisions we make? “

Over the past several months, Hanif and her team have been working to create climate-friendly lists that embrace the research of scientists like Willett. I discussed a sample menu of delicious, nutrient-dense, locally sourced options that students can look forward to seeing on dishes across the university. Take inspiration from many of the more sustainable Mediterranean, Latin or Asian cuisines.

“We try to make it inclusive, culturally sensitive, health-conscious, and delicious,” she said. “We don’t want to make it restrictive, but with determination we promote a healthy diet and a sustainable diet.”

The event was part of a week-long preview of the programs the initiative plans for the coming weeks and months. Other events during the week included chef-led tours of the home’s kitchens, pop-up cooking demonstrations, and an eco-friendly dinner with first-year students at Annenberg.

On Monday, HFSI also hosted David Nabarro, the UN Senior Adviser on Food Systems Summit Dialogues, for a sitting-room discussion only on the future of food systems.

In an interview with the Gazette prior to the event, Hanif and Willett said the initiative’s goal is to bring together the existing diets research networks across Harvard schools and build more awareness.

“We have tremendous energy about it: faculty teaching courses, research leadership, students who participate in cross-curricular and extracurricular activities, and operators who innovate on a daily basis,” Hanif said. “I hope HFSI will be a common place for knowledge sharing, knowledge generation and community participation.”

The group plans to create and distribute accessible research and educational materials. In addition to more lectures from experts like Willett, the initiative introduces an eight-part curriculum for people to learn about their relationship to diet. New piece will be added every month.

Hanif and Willett said there would be more opportunities for students to visit local farms and fisheries to see firsthand what sustainable food production looks like. But much of the group’s effort will center around the dining halls.

“Nearly every student interacts with the catering services daily,” Willett said. “I think there are only a few parts of the university where every student goes through a similar interaction on a daily basis, so this takes advantage of this very unique opportunity.”

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