Food Systems For Nutrition Innovation Lab

The Nutrition Innovation Lab, led by Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition, spent over a decade from 2010-2021 pursuing rigorous research and building human and institutional capacity to advance nutrition across the globe. As one of its final close-out activities, the Lab hosted the two day virtual conference “Looking Beyond a Decade of Accomplishments in Nutrition” on September 16-17th, 2021 to celebrate its achievements, disseminate key lessons learned to a global audience, and facilitate rich discussion on the future of food systems-level nutrition research and policies.

This event brought together over 300 development professionals, donors, thought leaders, and other stakeholders to digest and discuss accomplishments of the Nutrition Innovation Lab, highlighting opportunities and implications for ongoing and future programming and policies supporting agriculture, poverty reduction, resilience, and nutrition. The agenda featured a nexus of Nutrition Innovation Lab collaborators and country experts, as well as professionals from the US government and beyond.

“The Nutrition Innovation Lab really epitomizes how science can effectively be translated into practice, and that this translation into practice is best achieved through partnerships with local partners who are essential leaders and investors in their own actionable nutrition science and the use of its findings.”
–Megan Rhodes, Division Chief of Nutrition Technical Services, Bureau of Resilience and Food Security, USAID | September 16, 2021

During the two days, the program featured 43 speakers during 15 sessions as well as three video testimonials from Nutrition Lab long-term and short-term training participants. These sessions included country highlights from Nepal, Uganda, and Malawi, as well as thematic panel discussions featuring novel research findings, metrics, and program outcomes. Conversations between panelists centered on the nutrition policy and governance, agriculture and nutrition linkages, mycotoxins and gut inflammation, the impact of seasonality and climate change, and more.

The highlight of the 2-day event was the final session, the high-level roundtable discussion, which was opened by a video message from United States Senator Edward Markey and live remarks from United States Representative Jim McGovern. Both Congressmen praised the Nutrition Lab for its work over the decade and highlighted the importance of robust evidence generation to support continued national and international nutrition and food systems policies.

The roundtable discussion was moderated by Aysha House, Vice President of the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Congressional and Public Affairs, and featured USAID’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Robert Bertram; USAID’s Chief Nutritionist, Shawn Baker; the Nepal National Planning Commission Joint Division Chief, Dr. Kiran Rupakhetee; and the Nutrition Innovation Lab Director and Associate Director, Drs. Patrick Webb and Shibani Ghosh.

The in-depth conversation focused on best practices and lessons learned throughout the program’s history for identifying priorities, engaging country partners, generating rigorous evidence, and ensuring uptake. The panelists drew apt conclusions on the importance of embracing a food systems-level approach moving forward, appropriately rounding out more than a decade’s work as the Nutrition Innovation Lab and paving the way for the launch of the newest Innovation Lab—the Tufts University-managed Food Systems for Nutrition Lab.

Moving forward, the Food Systems for Nutrition Lab will expand upon the Nutrition Innovation Lab’s work, supporting innovative technologies and practices across the food system to ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all.

Read about more highlights from the Nutrition Innovation Lab’s work in the close-out Legacy Report here!