for Future Actions
(Speech text is verbatim.)
Thank you very much. Eileen, thank you for having
me here. I can let you in on a little secret. After the excitement
you had yesterday, last night I had a chance to visit with Secretary
There is a product that we have and he wanted a case
of it delivered today. He wanted a case of Rediwhip so he could
defend himself next time.
Mayor, it is obvious to me why the citizens of Beaumont
enjoy you representing them. That was a great talk. Thank you.
I have been asked to address from a food industry
perspective on a new agenda for action to encourage healthy habits
and healthy lifestyles. I could not be happier to do that, and I
was equally happy on Saturday when I heard the President's address
on the same topic.
For me, this summit is a milestone, and it is a point
of validation for a campaign that our company embarked upon about
14 years ago when encouraging healthy habits and healthy lifestyles
was not a popular thing to do, but we stayed the course and being
involved today is actually a delight for me.
As you consider the topic of nutrition this morning,
I would like you to all put the topic into perspective. Ask yourself
generally what is our perspective as a nation about nutrition and
how did we get to that perspective.
I submit that our collective perspective and approach
to both food and health has been shaped to some degree by the context
of where we have been and how far we have come in the three decades
that have transpired since the White House Conference on Food and
Nutrition about 30 years ago.
Today technology and innovation and a heightened awareness
for good nutrition are all factors that have influenced our lifestyles
and the way we think about food.
A number of things such as microwaves, disposable
containers, cable TV and even the Internet are some examples of
how evolving technology has played a role in the way we eat and
what we eat, and how we prepare our foods and even how we market
and sell foods.
As a nation, we have made significant progress in
nutrition and health because nutrition is now a household word.
That was not always the case. That in itself is a major step forward.
As is the concept and relevance of a total diet as contrasted with
As a society we have made substantial advances in
addressing the needs of at-risk populations and so that, too, is
also a great step forward.
More than ever before, American consumers now have
practical tools to guide the food choices for themselves and for
their families, and the dietary guidelines and the Food Pyramid
are accessible explanations of what constitutes a sound and well-balanced
diet for our society, but at the same time, we need to be ever vigilant
that we avoid the temptation to take the easy road or a temporarily
popular road by subscribing to a sort of one size fits all mentality.
If we do that, we are going to lose sight of individual needs and
goals. And if we do that, we are going to succumb to a temptation
that results in a complete loss of credibility by those who know
Because food packages now bear uniform nutrition labels,
customers have a ready access to information on the nutrient composition
of their foods and in what quantities those nutrients are needed
on a daily basis.
Using that information can help consumers create individual
diets to obtain and maintain optimal health but having made so much
progress as a society, it is ironic to me that despite these innovations
and the information available to consumers, society actually appears
to have taken several steps backward in collective health.
Our knowledge has burgeoned, yet changes in the way
we live have conspired to create a complete new set of challenges.
As a nation, we seem to have created a personal energy crisis. The
problem is not that we squander energy but that we do not expend
enough energy. We see the needle move, but too often it is the needle
on the bathroom scale, and the statistics say that the trend on
that is upward. Even though the food available to us is nutritious,
we are expending too few of the calories that we consume.
I mentioned technology earlier. It enriches our lives
in many ways, and it allows us to perform a lot of tasks sufficiently.
While that is great news for productivity, it is sort of problematic
for the waistbands of society.
For example, a lot of us ride to work in automobiles,
and we close our garage doors with an automatic garage door opener.
We get to the office and we take the elevator instead of the steps.
We are all guilty of that. We stay in the building for a cafeteria
lunch, and we dashboard or we desktop. Lawn mowing is a lot more
fun going after that crab grass on a tractor than pushing something.
And if you think about it, a couch potato is a relatively
recent term. I mean, it was not yesterday, but it was not 50 years
So one might say that we have become physically lazy,
but in truth, as a society we are very busy. The structure of our
tasks and the length of our working days often work against us in
terms of physical activity. And those who do not have some of the
time and energy saving luxuries that I mentioned are even in a lesser
position to partake in real exercise.
Studies indicate that children are also expending
less energy than kids of earlier generations because of distance
from schools or concern for safety or whatever the reason. Many
children no longer walk to school. Indoor programs that include
video games, watching TV, and so forth, have supplanted indoor and
outdoor activity that is physical.
Other alternate ways of life have dietary implications
as well. The timing of a family meal to meet everyone's schedule
is a near impossibility in today's society. Convenience is top line
at meal time. Snacking is abundant, and much of our food is cooked
and often eaten away from home.
In many restaurants, you mentioned it, portion sizes
have grown larger. Yet 34 percent of the population say they do
not adjust the food quantity intake to accommodate the changes in
their lives, mainly a less physical activity.
So this new energy crisis challenges us as a nation,
but at the same time, it probably gives us a fresh opportunity to
establish a new cultural equation emphasizing the proper balance
between diet and physical activity.
But how effectively as a society do we communicate
what we have learned about nutrition, exercise, and overall good
health? There is no shortage of cultural messages about diet and
exercise and their connection to looking great and feeling great.
Check out the titles on the best seller lists and the cover lines
on monthly magazines.
Often regardless of their efficacy, note the multiple
vitamin, herbal, and other supplements in drug and food stores.
If you are so inclined, somebody will supply you with
a cure to beat your carbohydrate addiction, to find your zone, or
swallow the secret to a better memory. It is out there.
But except for a few credible innovators, underlying
this phenomenon is a still too often held view that diet, physical
activity, and health are completely independent issues. To some,
diets are for thinness, and exercise is for attractive muscle tone.
To some, health is something you are blessed with. To some, medicine
is what you use to maintain or restore health when it fails.
Because of the health effects of a good dietthat
a good diet does not provide any immediate benefitconsumers
are often left wondering what have five servings of fruit and vegetables
actually done for me lately.
It is no wonder Americans look for a silver bullet
for foods. They try to lose weight with odd food combinations or
calories at too low of a level to sustain them over time, and yo-yo
cycles in gains and losses are common when physical activity is
left out of the equationthe weight maintenance equation.
Amazingly, some people will engage in exercise religiously,
but they will pay little attention to the composition of their total
diet. On the other hand, people living alone might lose the incentive
to prepare nutritious meals.
For many of us, conflicting messages from so-called
experts, countless contradictory studies, and those who use the
media to sensationalize so-called facts have made nutrition way
Swinging the pendulum too far one way or the other
has caused the public, in my opinion, to tune out.
It is obvious that change is needed. The issue is
what kind of change and how to make that change happen. And a few
words I submit, sound, reasoned, scientific based judgment will
do more for our messages on nutrition than scare tactics, fads,
We need to have a society that views nutrition, fitness,
and health collectively. If the public continues to look at nutrition,
fitness, and health as three separate matters, we are unlikely as
a society to effect sustainable change.
We need to create a culture of health that encourages
consumers to develop individual diet and exercise plans that will
help prevent disease and promote lifelong vigor, that will maximize
lifespan, and that will enhance the quality of everyday living.
One way to get there is to group the three together as the President
did in his radio address on Saturday, and I would recommend that
we all follow suit.
Another topic that I would like to address in connection
with nutrition this morning is food safety. In addition to a nutritious
diet and exercise, good health requires safe food. It is self-evident
that the new dietary guidelines include a food safety imperative.
Food safety offers us a useful example of how the
actions of multiple sectors, government, industry, and consumers
combine to achieve a social goal. Government, specifically the Department
of Agriculture and the FDA, provides the regulatory oversight to
help ensure safe production and distribution of foods.
The food industry has primary responsibility for producing
safe and healthful foods and for making sure that all products are
handled properly until they reach the consumer.
Lest anyone think otherwise, when you think about
it, it is in the food industry's best interest to have the safest
food supply possible in order to continue to build consumer confidence
in food products.
This is the reason that the food industry, in general,
my company, ConAgra, specifically spends thousands and thousands
of hours and millions and millions of dollars in training our employees
and researching new production and sanitizing methods, and developing
and implementing new equipment, and working with the government
to test innovations.
At the same time, it is essential that consumers understand
their part in food safety, and consumers do have a part. Consumers
must know how to handle and prepare foods to make certain they are
safe for themselves and for the families that they serve.
The food safety chain must be an unbroken one, and
it extends from the farm to the dinner table. At each point, whether
it is a farmer's field or a rancher's feedlot or a production facility,
a grocery store, a kitchen counter, or a kitchen refrigerator, there
is someone who has a primary role in ensuring that food at that
point in the chain is safe.
My company feels so strongly about this that we recently
partnered with the American Dietetic Association in a multi-year
multi-million dollar campaign entitled "Food Safety: It's in Your
Hands" to help spread the word about food safety.
But the appropriate recognition and acceptance of
responsibility among sectors is going to be crucial to improving
the health of all Americans.
Now I would like to turn your attention to consumers.
Those are the people who in the end you all hope will hear some
of the messages of the National Nutrition Summit and whose minds
you all hope to make a change and make a difference.
But you are talking about changing America for the
better, and all Americans cover a lot of territory. It is children,
adolescents, and young adults. It includes single-parent households,
busy two-worker couples, families with children, those rounding
the bend into the second half of life. It also includes folks of
advancing age, those with chronic diseases. And it includes growing
populations of the very old and in whom we must preserve strength
and stamina and independence.
The twin problems of overweight and inactivity cut
across age, gender, ethnic group, education, income levels, occupation,
and geographic region. It covers everybody.
Creating change is going to demand a concerted effort
by many sectors, the food industry, the nutrition and fitness communities,
organized medicine and public health, the communications industry,
So how do we create this healthy American lifestyle
that we are talking about?
Well, we have had ample opportunity as a society to
learn how not to do it. Over and over again so-called experts in
diet and health have shown us that negative messages do not work.
The public tunes it out.
Consider the fact that about the only place the term
"guilt" is applied today is in reference to diet. Think about that.
If changing behavior were as simple as a list of do's
and don'ts, we would have the fittest, most optimally nourished
population in history because everybody has got a list of do's and
I do not believe that another government program is
going to do the job because I do not believe that government alone
can do the job, and I do not think government should be expected
to do the job.
I believe that we need to take a marketing approach
in which all of the interested communities, food, nutrition, health,
government, and consumer all have a role to play. Good nutrition
should be marketed to adults as normal behavior and to children
as fun and not as a burdensome chore, and not something reserved
for health nuts.
We should think about these concepts from the customer's
point of view. Let's stand in their shoes. It is not so difficult
to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day if you understand
that a serving is a half a cup or it can be in the form of juice.
Perhaps we need to rephrase some of our messages.
What if we talk about activity and movement instead of exercise?
Maybe we need ways to communicate that activity does not necessarily
require a gym membership. It does not necessarily require fancy
equipment. And it is not necessarily a sweat-soaked t-shirt.
If a person burns off an extra 100 calories a day,
that can amount to 10 pounds over a year. It can amount to 50 pounds
over 5 years. One hundred calories a day can be accomplished by
taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It can be accomplished
by taking a brisk walk at lunch, and it can be accomplished with
activity after dinner.
So we need to consider how people actually live. We
have to realistically look at their lifestyles. We have to look
at the place food occupies in their daily life. And we have to assess
the opportunities to fit physical activity into their busy schedules
and learn what will motivate people to embrace a new American lifestyle.
As I mentioned, our company embarked on the promotion
of healthful food and healthy lifestyles 14 years ago when it was
not so popular. In doing so we asked questions of our consumers,
and we tried to assess how food products could best fit their lives.
That effort told us that lifestyle overall, not just one meal and
not just one component, was the critical factor.
The research also told us that exercise was important,
so we incorporated that concept into a visual image. Next time you
are in a grocery store, go take a look at a package of Healthy Choice
and look at the label. Look at the healthy and the choice and in
between you will see a running man. We put the running man there
14 years ago. He has been there since day one, and he is still there,
but it is a visual image to tie the two together.
We have become messengers trying to inform consumers
about nutrition and health issues not only with nutrient fact panels
on the labels but also on the label copy, in advertisements, and
on Web sites.
In fact, Healthy Choice had information in the form
of pie charts and fitness messages on its labels years before the
government required it within LEA and that informative tradition
lives on today with nutrition and health facts on all of its labels.
The food industry, in general, can find many ways
to partner with public entities to provide information and solutions
regarding healthy lifestyles.
For example, women have become increasingly at risk
for heart disease in recent times. To help combat that risk, ConAgra
formed a partnership with the American Heart Association and the
program Choose to Move. It is a Web site with a free 12-week program
to promote positive lifestyle changes in women. The program focuses
on three areasphysical activity, nutrition, and weight managementand
advises women on how to set realistic health goals.
Speaking of partnerships, there is another nutritional
topic that I would like to address this morning. When we talk about
good nutrition, exercise, and food safety, we cannot ignore one
other very important aspect of a healthy America. The Mayor just
talked about it. It is the face of hunger right here in the United
States and particularly with children.
I am sure everybody here agrees that hunger and food
insecurity have no place in America or anywhere for that matter
and we have to address the problem of at-risk populations to ensure
that there is a sufficient supply of nutritious food.
Childhood hunger should not exist in this country
but somehow it does. It is estimated that hunger affects nearly
14 million children in the United States. I am sure that Debra Leff
told you about that yesterday from America's Second Harvest.
We also know at ConAgra that nothing happens until
you make it happen, and so we partnered with Deb and the folks at
America's Second Harvest through a program that we call Feeding
Children Better, and it is the largest corporate initiative that
is dedicated solely to childhood hunger. As part of this program,
over the next 3 years, we are opening 75 to 100 kids cafes. They
are places that feed the mind and the body. The cafes are feeding
hungry children across the country while providing a nurturing after
school environment for both study and fun. It is a safe haven.
In addition, we are helping Second Harvest revolutionize
the way that food is procured and distributed through the creation
of a national food distribution system. This program has the potential
to reclaim 200 million pounds of lost food each year.
Finally, education is enormously effective in combating
hungerwe think it isin a country that may not know the
degree to which hunger exists. I am not sure that everybody does
know the degree to which it exists, so this year we are launching
and supporting a public service advertising campaign that is going
to bring the issue of childhood hunger into the spotlight.
I challenge everyone, including my colleagues in the
food industry, to step on board with the fight to combat childhood
hunger. Hungry children cannot concentrate. They cannot study. They
cannot pay attention and they cannot play. You and I cannot concentrate
if we are hungry.
If we can feed hungry children, we can give them a
lot more in terms of options to succeed.
You heard yesterday and you heard this morning the
summaries about nutrition and health food issues facing the nation.
You discussed potential solutions. Among those solutions were partnerships
between public and private sector, education, and marketing innovation.
These are all the tools that we have to help support the needs and
wants of consumers to create healthy lifestyles.
I keep coming back to innovation is a key component
of health. There is so much that we have already done to promote
healthy lifestyles, but there is a lot more that we can continue
to do. With the development of food products with added nutritional
benefits, we will have the opportunity in the future to hone in
on the special needs of growing sectors of our consumers from infants
to older Americans.
In addition, with technology in genetics, society
will probably some day be able to increase the food supply to help
feed hungry children worldwide and to add nutrients directly into
crops that are essential to health but actually unobtainable in
I think we have only scratched the surface of the
potential role of food as a key component in optimizing good health.
With research and innovation, we may some day see dietary practices
routinely reducing the burden of some diseases such as cancer and
Partnerships for education are also a key component
of encouraging a new American lifestyle. John F. Kennedy knew that
when he instituted the Presidential Fitness Award in elementary
through high schools across the country in the early 1960s [it would
eliminate] mandatory physical education in schools. [This elimination]
has contributed to health issues that now face us in this country,
especially amongst our young children.
Parents, educators, and government, I think, need
to work together at a grassroots level and on up to reinstate the
vital educational component of physical education and add to it
classes on food preparation, safe handling of food, and nutrition.
Similarly, parents, educators, local governments,
and industries of all type can work together to enhance health at
the community levels by creating educational programs and areas
for outdoor and indoor physical activities.
The medical community can also play a role in the
nation's health by promoting sound dietary choices and physical
[activity]promoting physical activity before problems occur and
probably by taking a proactive approach to good health rather than
a defensive one after the fact.
In addition, physicians can work hand in hand with
the food and dietary supplement industry by, for example, providing
a probiotic along with antibiotics to reduce the side effects of
prolonged antibiotic use and thereby enhance the medicine's efficiency
and reduce the over use of these lifesaving drugs.
Finally, government can be a big help to industry's
already considerable effort to provide more nutritious food choices
to consumers by eliminating any laws that discourage and, in some
cases, even prevent healthful food from reaching consumers.
For example, I look forward to the day when healthy
offerings can be provided in something as simple as a family-serve-style
container instead of only in single-serve containers. Something
as simple as packaging healthful foods for our largest groups of
consumers, families can make a huge difference in healthy eating.
This national nutrition summit has allowed us to reflect
on the achievements since the landmark White House Conference on
Food and Nutrition 30 years ago. So let's consider what the legacy
of this summit will be.
We all will have accomplished a great deal if we can
say that this is where we took the first steps toward creating a
new American way of living, including a balance of sound dietary
choices and physical activity, a way of living that embraces healthfulness
not as a duty or a chore but as a path to a richer and fuller life.
In the years ahead I will encourage my company and
my industry to increase its activities in promoting a new way of
living, will continue to work with government, educators, the fitness
community, and consumer representatives to shape a fresh affirming
approach to nutrition and health for all.
With that, I thank you all for listening. Thank you.
Remarks from Dr. Eileen Kennedy:
I think it was important to get that perspective from
the private sector, and I was impressed with how many innovations
ConAgra has not only thought about but moved forward with, and I
guess I have to say the U.S. Government apparently has plagiarized
some of your innovations, but you did not hold us to the fire on
that but it was absolutely terrific. Thank you.
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