Developing a food system that is both healthy and accessible requires innovation. Although improving the food industry is no easy task, making the world a more nutritious place is more important than ever, according to the American Heart Association.
"The pandemic has emphasized the need for reliable food access for families who were already experiencing food insecurity and families who are experiencing food insecurity for the first time," said American Heart Association Chief Medical Officer for Prevention Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H., FAAFP. "These aren't problems that are new, but the pandemic is adding extra pressure to this issue and the need for collaboration and solutions is stronger than ever."
That's why the Association's second annual Foodscape Innovation Awards is open to companies and organizations in every part of the food industry, from pre-production to consumption.
"The Foodscape Innovation Awards recognize the innovations themselves, and there is no company too big or too small to apply," Sanchez said. "We hope to see applications from all facets of the food industry, from environmental sciences to manufacturing to retail and public health."
The American Heart Association launched the awards in 2019 after issuing a science advisory that said voluntary change by the private-sector food industry, when practiced widely, can favorably impact health behaviors. Such changes are needed because studies show that poor diet is a leading risk factor for death and disease and contributes to risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
"Collaboration among the American Heart Association and leaders in the food industry is crucial because we all have different areas of expertise that, when brought together, can work towards a healthier food system," Sanchez said.
Celebrating those that are striving for similar goals was a natural fit for the science-based organization, Sanchez said.
"With our expertise and our relationships, we are able to bring together the best of the best to look at the entire food ecosystem and really pinpoint where effective change can happen," Sanchez said.
Last year's winner was the WICShopper App Food Use Improvement Project. It aimed to boost use of a federal nutrition assistance program for low-income women, infants and children. Many of the food benefits go unused, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's when Kellogg stepped in to collaborate with the app's developer, JPMA, Inc., to add new recipe content and features to help users monitor account balances, scan products to ensure eligibility, find stores and more.
Entries must be original, recent and relevant, with potential for positive impact on public health, with innovations that:
- Create a shift in nutrition quality that increases positive foods or ingredients (such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and/or decreases negative nutrients or ingredients (such as sodium, added sugars and saturated fat).
- Improve availability, accessibility and/or affordability of healthier products.
- Increase demand and/or desirability of healthier products.
- Promote healthy eating practices.
Experts in nutrition, food science, environmental sciences, retail, food manufacturing and public health will judge the entries. Visit heart.org/foodinnovationawards and apply by July 24.