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AHA Launches Foodscape Innovation Awards

Food sector companies and organizations finding new ways to improve the health of our food system have a unique opportunity to be recognized by the American Heart Association (AHA), the world’s leading voluntary organization focused on heart and brain health.

AHA Chief Medical Officer for Prevention Eduardo Sanchez, MD, announced the Foodscape Innovation Awards at a meeting the AHA hosted with food industry executives as the group discussed ways to work together to transform the food supply with better nutritional quality and health promotion practices.

Through a collaboration across the “foodscape”—places and spaces where food is grown, manufactured, marketed, acquired, prepared, consumed, talked about, or given meaning—the AHA hopes to improve not only food security but also nutrition security. The organization asserts that boosting the nutritional quality, availability, affordability, and sustainability of foods throughout the foodscape naturally will increase consumer demand for and access to more healthful foods.

“Healthy food that tastes good and is good for our communities and our planet requires us to think creatively and operate differently,” Sanchez says. “Our goal in recognizing health-promoting innovations by companies and organizations in the food business is to shine a bright light on good work and accelerate positive change in the foodscape.”

Poor diet is a leading risk factor for morbidity and mortality in the United States and contributes to 1 in 5 deaths globally. The AHA recently published a scientific advisory that included a call for increased innovation and voluntary private sector efforts to improve the food supply and evaluate the impact of such efforts.

“Innovation in the food system is needed at multiple levels—the food industry, agricultural industry, public health and medicine, policy, and among communities, worksites, schools, and families. In a healthy food system, the healthy choice would be the default choice,” says Cheryl A. M. Anderson, PhD, MPH, MS, the chair of the writing group for the advisory, chair of the AHA’s Nutrition Committee, and a professor in the school of medicine at the University of California, San Diego.

According to the scientific advisory, voluntary private sector approaches, when practiced widely, can favorably impact health behaviors. A few studies have shown positive changes in eating patterns and food selection when community-based approaches are initiated. For example, community organizations and school districts have implemented systems such as labeling foods with “traffic lights” to highlight the more healthful foods. Some schools have data showing that students drink more water at school when it’s freely available.

“To create a healthier and sustainable food system and optimal environments where consumers purchase and consume foods, we need improvements in food production and distribution so that consumers have a wide variety of healthful foods readily available,” Anderson says.

Applicants may select from the following entry categories for the 2019 Foodscape Innovation Awards:

Innovation in Nutrition: Results in a positive shift in nutrition quality; and
Innovation in Health Promotion: Results in improved availability, accessibility, sustainability, desirability, and/or affordability of more healthful products.

Winning innovations must be original, recent, and develop or employ novel concepts, approaches, methodologies, tools, or technologies that will create significant positive impact on public health, nutrition security, sustainability, or consumer behavior.

Companies and organizations operating in the United States from all sectors of the food industry are eligible. Applications are due September 16, 2019, and winners will be announced in the fall.

For additional details and to apply, visit heart.org/foodinnovationawards.

— Source: American Heart Association