How is The Power of Nutrition connected to N4G?
The Power of Nutrition is actually an outcome of the original N4G Summit in London. We were created as a way to bring new and diverse funding into the nutrition space in view of the high global burden of stunting in children under age 5 as well as the significant underfunding of nutrition (less than 1% of global Official Development Assistance channelled to nutrition). We started with the UK government (DFID) and Children’s Investment Fund Foundation in 2015, and UBS Optimus Foundation soon joined as a third founding partner and our first investor. From inception to present, we have kept our vision and activities aligned with the goals of N4G, with the aim of contributing to improving nutrition through diverse, innovative and multi-stakeholder approaches.
What are your ambitions for the N4G Tokyo Summit?
My hope would be for all to see (not just nutrition actors) that nutrition is key to progressing sustainable development and is the backbone of overall health of people and their economies. In light of this, I would love to see the nutrition community extend beyond our traditional siloed space and approaches to bring in new voices and expertise working in the other areas of sustainable development delivery- whether from finance, agriculture, gender, or other relevant and cross-cutting themes - who are also important to ensuring good nutrition is available, accessible and affordable in national contexts. We also want to see new pledges and financial commitments to increase funding for nutrition so vital nutrition interventions can begin, continue or scale up in countries that are most in need.
Why do you think N4G is an important milestone? And has Coronavirus changed your view on this?
N4G is a very important moment in time on the path towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda. It is specifically important as many of the existing N4G pledges to nutrition are set to expire at the end of 2020. The Summit is seen as the last big global opportunity to mobilise commitments for nutrition that can deliver results by 2025, which marks the end of the Decade of Action on Nutrition and the deadline to reach the World Health Assembly global nutrition targets. To this end, The Power of Nutrition sees this milestone as an opportunity to strengthen our internal financing mechanism to ensure that funds we leverage for nutrition are more inclusive and sustainable through this Decade of Acceleration.
There is absolutely recognition of the importance of investing in and curtailing the impacts of coronavirus. But, we need to remember that both short and long-term responses are important during such a time. This is especially true as we look to populations who are already living in countries more vulnerable to the effects of such an outbreak. As we respond to the immediate needs of the crises and their impacts on health systems globally, we must also, and at the same time, invest in food and health systems to ensure long-term access to nutritious foods, the foundation of resilient and healthy communities.
Yet, I am hearing there is a risk that major actors in the nutrition space are shifting their focus from N4G given the current sensitivities around COVID-19. This is dangerous. Especially in the presence of COVID-19, it is imperative that the Summit take place this year. 1 in 3 under 5’s globally are already affected by the burden of malnutrition. We need to ensure attention does not divert from the nutrition agenda and allow the trajectory of the virus to contribute to a worsened nutrition crisis. We should instead be coming together as a unified community to ensure that the wider development audience understands the importance of investing in nutrition and invests at scale.
Has anything surprised you in the N4G process?
I think it's really important for us all to prioritise being inclusive within the N4G process – including doing more to draw in national and regional voices and relevant non-nutrition actors. But I've been a little surprised at how exclusive and opaque this space still feels. Despite calls for engagement and bringing in new partners, it still seems that a select set of actors are the ones holding all the information and influence. Even as an ‘insider’ we have found that it’s quite difficult to glean information or support some of these more direct processes.
Nutrition Connect focuses on the intersection of public and private sectors across the food system – is this important to The Power of Nutrition’s work? Do you have any advice for others who are interested in public private engagement for better nutrition?
Yes, public private engagement is at the core of our operating model at the The Power of Nutrition – we leverage funds to support large scale nutrition programmes in low- and middle-income countries, especially in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia. We start with funds from the private sector, whether high-net worth individuals, foundations or businesses and corporations. The Power of Nutrition then doubles that money through public sector funds. This amount is doubled again by one of our implementation partners using a mix of public and private funding.
In addition to our funding model which explicitly blends public and private financing, we have some programmes that are PPE. For example, we have a programme in Gujarat that brings together The Power of Nutrition, CARE and Action Against Hunger with the Government of Gujarat to implement the Gujarat Nutrition Programme, a large-scale five-year imitative that benefits both women and young children. Among other things, the programme leverages support from Unilever’s Lifebuoy Mobile Doctarni communication platform, using a mobile phone based voice response system to promote handwashing with soap as part of a nutrition programme among mothers. It’s multisectoral (linking WASH, nutrition, communication and health) and encompasses both a cash and in-kind component. It is a clear example of how the private sector can engage in the nutrition space in an innovative way. It also shows that actors do not need to be squarely in the food or nutrition industry (whether a programme, project or business) to make a positive contribution to nutrition.
I think it’s important to remember that partnering with the private sector can extend beyond the traditional food and beverage companies.
Have you faced any challenges in this work?
I think the nutrition sector as a whole is lagging behind other sectors in making clear what the economic imperative is for investing in and prioritising nutrition, specifically to stakeholders outside of the nutrition community. We have not been able to make the same traction as those who work on, for example, gender or climate. And this will be even more difficult now that global attention is focused on this pandemic. The Power of Nutrition is aiming to support progress to this end including working with academia on building a Business Case for Nutrition, demonstrating the impact of undernutrition on business and GDP globally.
If you are inviting family or friends over for dinner, what would you prepare?
Something with a lot of colour!
I was born in The Pacific Northwest of the United States and have since settled in London. I hold a MSc in Human Nutrition and am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. I have worked in public health nutrition for the last decade, mainly with a focus on hunger relief efforts. I started working to enhance school feeding programmes with the Department of Education in the US, and expanded into the international development sector through a charity in Lebanon working on the response to the Syrian refugee crisis. I then transitioned to the global food systems and policy environment, working with governments to realign their policies towards healthy diets and sustainable food systems. And now I am head of N4G strategy for The Power of Nutrition, the first-ever innovative financing facility for nutrition that leverages resources and partnerships from diverse sources - with a focus on private sector and domestic funding for scalability and sustainability.