What One Funder is Doing to Mount a Global Food Revolution

The interconnectivity between the world’s most pressing environmental, health, and development challenges has clarified in recent years, especially as the effects of climate change kick in. Awareness of these linkages has led to new strategies by funders that are keen to advance collaboration that reaches across issues, disciplines, and sectors. 

One area where funders are connecting the dots relates to the global food system, which connects in obvious ways to climate change and, less obviously, to some other issue areas. Which leads us to a new joint venture by Wellcome Trust. 

Wellcome Trust, the Stordalen Foundation, and the Stockholm Resilience Center are collaborating on the new multimillion dollar EAT Foundation. Both Wellcome Trust and the Stordalen Foundation are investing £3 million in EAT and the Stockholm Resilience Center is responsible for the foundation’s scientific oversight.

The EAT Foundation is an outgrowth of the Storandalen’s EAT Initiative. The foundation will build on the initiative's work, initially focusing on the main topics including health metrics as they relate to sustainable food, consumer behavior, and “multifunctional landscapes and seascapes.”

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Speaking of the new partnership, Gunhild Stordalen, chair of the Stordalen Foundation and founder and director of EAT said, “We need a Food Revolution 2.0, which is as much about quality and sustainability quantity.” Stordalen touched on another crucial aspect of EAT’s work, saying “The global food system is driving some of our time’s greatest health and environmental challenges,” adding, “Despite their intertwined nature, these food-related challenges have mainly been handled in siloes.” The new foundation is taking aim at this problem by launching a “multi-stakeholder effort across sectors and disciplines.” The main goal, here, is to take the expertise offered up by leaders across a number of disciplines and translate those thoughts and theories into action.

As for Wellcome’s investment, this isn’t necessarily uncharted territory for the trust, as it has long supported the expansion of knowledge through science and research to improve the health of people around the world. Just last year, it announced its plan to increase health-related research spending to £5 billion over five years. That announcement came on the heels of its ambitious “Our Planet, Our Health” program to which the trust has dedicated $116 million to further explore the connection between the environment and human health.

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When the trust announced all this, it also laid out a new funding strategy. This updated approach is a comprehensive plan to allow the trust to “adapt as new ideas and challenges arise,” and “respond quickly in crisis.” This is an incredibly multidimensional funding plan, which you can read about here, but one constant theme is Wellcome’s desire to bring people and their ideas together to develop and drive new approaches to global health challenges.

So while the latest joint venture with Stordalen Foundation and the Stockholm Resilience Center may appear pedestrian in light of the Wellcome Trust's support of health-related research, it is also a good indicator of the shape of things to come under its new strategic plan.