Food Thoughts

What’s Hot in Nutrition: As Seen At SNEB’s Annual Conference

by Erin DeSimone, MS, RD, LDN, FAND and Laurie Hainley, RD

The Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB) Annual Conference is the premier event for nutrition education professionals in the United States. Through dynamic discussions, stimulating presentations, and hands-on training, this yearly meeting helps nutrition educators stay on top of current research and best practices for creating healthier communities, food systems and behaviors.

Participants from FoodMinds spotted five “hot” trends in nutrition education for 2017:

No. 1: Interest in Nutrition Intervention is Skyrocketing

The 2017 SNEB Annual Conference had one of the highest attendance rates in the conference’s 50-year history. This indicates that impactful nutrition education and intervention is a top priority for stakeholders today.

  • 750+ attendees came to this year’s SNEB conference in Washington, DC.
  • Attendees represented diverse areas of work – including academia, the government, the community, and the industry – showing a vested, cross-sector interest in nutrition efforts.

No. 2: Collaborative Political & Societal Interventions are Required

A complex set of forces are influencing consumers’ food purchasing behavior  and collective efforts to navigate this space were seen as a priority, based on a FoodMinds-moderated session.

  • 52% of Opinion Leader Shoppers today believe that society (versus the individual) holds primary responsibility for ensuring healthy food choices.*
  • Multiple societal factors, including confusing scientific information and a highly complex marketplace, are eroding consumers’ abilities to make healthy choices.
  • Finding common ground (with good science) in nutrition interventions and policies was noted as essential to support public health.

No. 3: Food Waste Must be Curbed

Addressing high rates of food waste in the U.S. was called the “New Nutrition Frontier,” based on its ability to improve food security, resource efficiency and fruit and vegetable intakes.

  • Four SNEB presentations, plus a documentary film, addressed the need to curb food waste to prevent wasted nutrients and resources.
  • Consumer education was noted as having the highest economic value in reducing food waste, but multiple complementary tactics will be needed.

No. 4: Sustainable Diets & Systems Need to be Supported

Supporting sustainable diets and agricultural practices was viewed as key to promoting public and planetary health, as well as food security, for the future.

  • Speakers emphasized the importance of a sustainable supply chain to ensure nutritious, healthy diets for all.
  • SNEB is developing frameworks and a position paper on sustainable dietary guidance.

No. 5: The Power of Food as a Tool of Peace

Nutrition Diplomacy – using food to resolve conflicts among groups and cultures – was presented as a burgeoning area that nutrition educators can leverage.

  • Food was presented as a commonality for all, as well as a proxy for understanding international relations given its ethnic and cultural qualities.
  • “Peace building” through food was recommended as a way to bring people around the table, sharing cultural cuisines and building trust.

Erin DeSimone, MS, RD, LDN, FAND, is senior vice president and group lead at FoodMinds in Chicago, while Laurie Hainley, RD, is an account executive at FoodMinds in Washington, DC.