Emphasizing the importance of child and maternal health and nutrition to international development, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) represent a global commitment to poverty and hunger eradication.1 The first MDG is to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty; one of the 3 targets of MDG 1 is to halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. MDGs 4 and 5 focus on reducing child mortality and improving maternal health, both inextricably linked to nutrition and food security. The recent abrupt increase in food prices, in tandem with the current global economic crisis, threatens progress made in these areas and could prove a serious barrier to achievement of these goals.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM), with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the PepsiCo Foundation, held a workshop titled Mitigating the Nutritional Impacts of the Global Food Price Crisis on July 14–16, 2009, in Washington, DC, at the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Barbara Jordan Conference Center. The workshop was a collaboration between the IOM Board on Global Health and the Food and Nutrition Board, in consultation with the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources. Presenters were chosen by a planning committee to describe the dynamic technological, agricultural, and economic issues contributing to the food price increases of 2007 and 2008, and their impacts on health and nutrition in resource-poor regions. The planning committee quickly realized that it was impossible to ignore the compounding effects of the current global economic downturn on nutrition. Subject matter experts were invited to the workshop and asked to discuss these tandem crises, their impacts on nutrition, and opportunities to mitigate their negative nutritional effects. The primary objectives of this workshop were to:
Set the stage for the deliberations by having an overview of the recent food price crisis and how it, in tandem with the current economic crisis, affects developing countries;
Understand the pathways from the food price and economic crises to nutritional impact, including a discussion of existing evidence and vulnerable populations;
Understand the range of country experiences with the food price and economic crises and their impact on food security and nutrition, as well as country-level responses to these crises;