The Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University has awarded the school’s inaugural $100,000 Jean Mayer Prize for Excellence in Nutrition Science and Policy to two individuals and two organizations for their collective efforts to raise awareness of the risks of diet-related disease and advocacy for policies that champion better nutrition for younger generations.
The Jean Mayer Prize is a new biennial award, supported through a gift to the Friedman School from John Hancock, to recognize outstanding achievement and work in science and/or policy related to food and nutrition. Named for the 10th president of Tufts University and a leading nutrition scientist, the award honors leaders who continue Jean Mayer’s legacy of advocating for policies and programs to reduce hunger and poor nutrition and to improve diet quality for all.
At an Oct. 18 celebration on Tufts’ Boston Health Sciences campus, the 2018 prize was awarded to:
- Tom Harkin, who served Iowa’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 to 1985 and was a U.S. senator from 1985 to 2015. During his time in the Senate, Harkin served as chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.
- Tom Vilsack, 40th governor of Iowa and the nation’s 30th secretary of agriculture. He is now president and CEO of U.S. Dairy Export Council.
- The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit health-advocacy group that focuses on nutrition and food safety. Based in Washington, DC, CSPI represents nearly 500,000 subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter.
- Mission: Readiness, an organization including 700+ retired admirals, generals, and other top military leaders that aims to strengthen national security by ensuring children stay in school, stay fit, and stay out of trouble. Their reports on nutrition and military readiness include Too Fat to Fight and Unhealthy and Unprepared, which was released earlier this month.
At the event, CSPI president Dr. Peter G. Lurie and vice president for nutrition Margo G. Wootan accepted on behalf of the organization and retired Rear Admiral James A. Barnett, Jr., U.S. Navy, and retired Brigadier General Allyson R. Solomon, U.S. Air Force, accepted on behalf of Mission: Readiness.
One example of the recipients’ dedication to providing healthier food for America’s children is their support of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, bipartisan legislation aimed at expanding children’s access to healthy school meals. This landmark act updated school, afterschool, and early childcare meal standards across the U.S. and has led to children eating healthier school meals with more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins, and dairy.
“Food plays a central role in multiple national challenges, including hunger and well-being, healthcare costs and disparities, environmental sustainability, and national security,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., dean of the Friedman School. “Solving these multifaceted challenges requires support and commitment from leaders who understand the importance of improving nutrition to improve the health of our country now and in the future. The recipients of our first Jean Mayer Prize are these leaders.”
The recipients shared the $100,000 prize. Harkin asked to have his share directly donated to the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement at Drake University to support work in nutrition, health and wellness. Vilsack asked to have his share directly donated to the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, which promotes donating to charities, improves lives by connecting donors with causes they’re passionate about, and provides guidance on community issues.
“Many of the everyday things we do, including what and how we eat, play a role in how long and well we live,” said Brooks Tingle, president and CEO of John Hancock Insurance. “Incentivizing healthier choices is at the core of our business and we fundamentally believe in helping customers take steps to live longer and healthier. We’ve seen it truly change lives. We are proud to collaborate with the Friedman School and congratulate today’s Jean Mayer Prize recipients for the well-deserved recognition of their work to improve the nutrition and overall health of our society.”
Jean Mayer was a leading nutrition scientist whose work helped clarify the nature of hunger and obesity. In addition to his 16-year tenure as president of Tufts, he was the author of 750 scientific papers and 10 books, and one of the principal organizers of the 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health, the first and still only gathering of experts from medicine and nutrition, industry, government and more to outline solutions to hunger and poor nutrition among low-income Americans. The conference’s recommendations led to, among other things, the expansions of food stamps and the school lunch program.
The day also included a panel event on the Friedman School’s 40 years of work applying research to identify the role nutrition plays in leading healthier lives.