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Summit Agenda

Opening Ceremonies

Breakout Sessions

Breakout Summaries

Perspectives for Future Actions

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Moore speech

Rohde speech

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McGinnis speech

Foreman speech


Perspectives for Future Actions

Bruce Rohde
ConAgra, Inc.

(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 Glickman.

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 individual foods.

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 better.

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 ago. Okay.

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 diet—that a good diet does not provide any immediate benefit—consumers 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 equation—the 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 too complicated.

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, and zealots.

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, and government.

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 don'ts.

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 areas—physical activity, nutrition, and weight management—and 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 hunger—we think it is—in 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 undernourished countries.

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 heart disease.

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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