National Ag Day: Giving Thanks for Agriculture, From Farm to Fork
Today is National Ag Day, a day to recognize the role of American agriculture in our daily lives and the efforts of those who shape the American food system. The average American farmer feeds approximately 144 people worldwide, and with agriculture being our number one export, agriculture is critically important to sustaining the U.S. economy.
Although USDA’s Economic Research Service reported the lowest figures on record for food insecurity among children in 2015, nearly 16 million U.S. households – which is more than the total number of households in either California or Texas – were food insecure at some point during that year.
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) envisions a future of global nutritional security, defined as “a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Achieving nutritional security in the context of the burgeoning population, changing climate and extreme weather events, diminishing land and water resources, environmental degradation, and changing incomes and diets will require new and smarter approaches to sustainably producing more food, dealing with food waste, and promoting improved nutritional outcomes.
Evidence-based, nutrition education programming plays a critical role in helping people access, store, and prepare nutritious and culturally relevant foods. For nearly 50 years, the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) has helped more than 33 million low-income families improve their diets and food-related behaviors by helping them access credible nutrition information.
NIFA welcomed more than 180 EFNEP coordinators to Washington, District of Columbia, from 76 land-grant institutions for their annual coordinators’ meeting. They hail from communities in every state, territory, and district in the United States and positively influence the diets, food savings, food safety practices, and physical activity of their neighbors who participate in EFNEP programs. EFNEP coordinators are pursuing ways to systematically integrate online technologies with peer educator teaching so they can adapt to changes in how people learn and access information.
EFNEP graduates have diets that more closely match the recommendations of the joint USDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Dietary Guidelines for Americans while simultaneously saving money on food costs. According to one program graduate, “[EFNEP has] made such a lasting impact on me and my family. We cook healthy meals together, we eat together, we play together, and we never run out of food.” Additionally, multiple analyses show a substantial societal benefit of EFNEP, with estimates of program value ranging from $8.34 to $10.64 per dollar invested.
Together, let’s take a moment to acknowledge all of those who work tirelessly across the food supply and distribution chain – from farmers to nutrition educators – to provide a safe, plentiful, affordable, and nourishing food supply.
NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges.