Prompt: Define and summarize the roadblocks that exist in your challenge as they relate to translation from basic research to broad application of a solution.
The ideal solution proposed by our group involves the improvement of nutritional communication on three levels: from nutritionists to clinicians, the scientific community to food distributors, and from the government to food distributors and the general public. While the solution to this problem would be easy to implement in a utopian world full of honesty, this unfortunately is not the reality of the situation. In turn, there are a few major roadblocks that exist in the dissemination of knowledge about nutrition including profit motives and access to recommended foods.
In order to reduce the amount of misinformation lurking on advertisements and cereal boxes, governmental regulation must be considered. Before anything receives the stamp of FDA approval, food products should receive a stamp signifying nutritional approval. Products should be given some sort of nutritional score assigned by clinicians and nutritionists, as well as an intake suggestion relative to a person’s size. A nutritional guide that is more accessible may assist the general public in gauging how the product may negatively or positively impact their bodies. Similarly to laws regarding medication, the commercialization of food products needs to be more closely monitored at the federal level so the public can be reassured that the information they are receiving is less profit driven and more for the benefit of national health standards.
Economic incentives are preventing the implementation of this solution. With companies perpetuating unhealthy dietary trends and fads to increase profit, they often dominate the food distributing industry. By building off of misconceived dietary fads in order to compete with the rest of the market, advertisements for food companies display misleading information on packaging to make the product seem healthier (“Food Labelling and Food Advertising”).
In addition, though the United States may seem extremely urbanized, there are many areas where people have limited access to healthy foods. The Federal Department of Agriculture estimates that 23 million people live within food deserts, areas where the nearest grocery store lies outside of a ten mile radius. With lower-income households lacking the proper access to transportation, they are unable to purchase groceries and resort to alternatives such as shopping at a nearing fast food restaurants or gas station convenience stores (“Food Deserts”). Approaching a solution where food marts would be more accessible is difficult since agriculture is heavily monopolized, which also poses as a roadblock when promoting locally grown, organic foods. The Monosanto Company, for instance, controls nearly 80% of corn production and oversight by making deals with food distributors and paying off local farmers to lower their production. (“Monosanto”). This time of interaction where one company controls a greater part of food production and distribution causes agriculture to become a business. Wholistically, in order to partly resolve the issue of access to healthy foods and promote more local food growers, food monopolies must be dismantled, just as oil and massive production based factories were decimated during the turn of the 21st century (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition).
There are a couple of roadblocks that exist in the grand challenge that makes improving nutrition difficult. Many food products that do not serve as an adequate source of nutrition receive stamps from the FDA. The public should be aware of what they are consuming, and in turn should have access to practical nutritional guides. This will inform them about whether they are making healthy choices or not in ways that are currently lacking. In a money-driven market, companies are going to lean towards the most cost effective option, which often happens to be the least healthy. In reality, it should be more important for companies to think about improving the public’s health by working cohesively with local growers to offer nutritious food that will improve overall health on a national level. It is also troublesome for the public when grocery stores are not within a close vicinity. Time and money are precious, and the public will resort to fast food restaurants to fulfill their hunger. Misinformation, profit motives, and limited access to healthy foods are all roadblocks present in our grand challenge.