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Jessica Fanzo, Professor of Climate and Director of the Food for Humanity Initiative at the Columbia Climate School gave the 2024 John Innes Foundation Lecture on the importance of evidence and data in holding a spotlight on food systems.

Hosts: Prof Nitya Rao, Director of Norwich Institute for Sustainable Development and Dr Maria Traka, Head of the Food & Nutrition National Bioscience Research Infrastructure (FN-NBRI).

The event was held in-person at the University of East Anglia, and online, with words of welcome from Professor David Maguire, Vice Chancellor of UEA, Peter Innes, Chair of the John Innes Foundation and event hosts Professor Nitya Rao and Dr Maria Traka.

Co-hosted by the NISD and Quadram Institute


We are living in a crowded, complex time of global challenges – climate change and environmental degradation, mounting social upheaval and inequities, and increasing public health and food insecurity risks. Food systems sit at the center of these challenges and are considered part of the problem, but can also be a solution.

At a time when facts, evidence, and data are under ever greater scrutiny and even openly disregarded as suspect by some political and business leaders, the rigors of science and evidence must be maintained. Data and research can bring about wholesale changes in attitudes, political thought, and action and have a vital role in charting a positive and sustainable direction for positive food system transformation.

In this lecture we discuss how evidence and data can help navigate decision-makers out of the dark and shed light on how to improve food systems. Professor Fanzo highlights some of the larger collaborations her team has initiated, including the Food Systems Dashboard and the Food Systems Countdown to 2030 Initiative.  


Jessica Fanzo, Ph.D., is a Professor of Climate and the Director of the Food for Humanity Initiative at Columbia University’s Climate School in New York City. She also serves as the Interim Director for the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, also known as IRI. Before coming to Columbia in 2023, Professor Fanzo was the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Global Food Policy and Ethics at Johns Hopkins University.

She has also held positions at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN), the UN World Food Programme, Bioversity International, the Earth Institute, the Millennium Development Goal Centre at the World Agroforestry Center in Kenya, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. She has participated in various collective endeavors, including the Food Systems Economic Commission, the Global Panel of Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition Foresight 2.0 report, the Lancet Commission on Anaemia, and the EAT-Lancet Commissions 1 and now 2.

She was also the Co-Chair of the Global Nutrition Report and Team Leader for the UN High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Systems and Nutrition. She currently leads the development of the Food Systems Dashboard and the Food Systems Countdown to 2030 Initiative in collaboration with the Global Alliance of Improved Nutrition.

Featured image from FAIRR Initiative

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