May 24, 2013

Live Blog - Chicago Council: “Failure to act now puts future generations in jeopardy,” says Dr. Helene Gayle

By Danielle Nierenberg, Food Tank

Dr. Helene Gayle, President and CEO of CARE International, has served in global health and development for much of her life. Yet, she began her keynote address by noting that she has learned more about nutrition since leaving the medical profession, than while she was a practicing physician.

She highlighted some startling statistics, including that every five seconds a child dies from hunger related diseases, and one billion people suffer from chronic malnutrition. Dr. Gayle warns: “If we do fail to act now […] we’re not just cutting ourselves short now, but clearly we are putting future generation in jeopardy.”

CARE first provided food aid to a broken post-war Europe, and has grown to an organization that operates in over eighty countries and uses complex, integrative food programs to fight poverty and hunger. Dr. Gayle believes that by focusing on women’s empowerment, strengthening resilience and healthy ecosystems, and transformative governance, the question of how to achieve “sustainable and just food systems for all” may be answered.

While leading CARE, Dr. Gayle has renewed focus on women’s empowerment because it is key to addressing underlying causes of hunger and poverty. A CARE program in Bangladesh showed that strengthening women’s decision-making abilities and improving their access to markets are critical to reducing stunting. Furthermore, by working not just to improve lives now, but also to give people tools to overcome challenges later in life, Dr. Gayle asserts that this resilience is critical to sustainable, long-term solutions to hunger. Finally, Dr. Gayle urged a focus on transformative governance, which is broader than simply good governance. It includes a wide range of partners in addressing hunger, and first must include and be accountable for the food insecure households themselves.

Dr. Gayle also noted three main challenges in achieving a sustainable and just food system for all. Integrative programs are a vital tool in addressing poverty and hunger, but also present unique challenges in their design, implementation, and monitoring. Similarly, complementary partnerships between organizations and groups can be very powerful, but also require extra capacity, patience, and the building of a shared vision. Dr. Gayle also noted a political climate that frames policy changes in terms of “winners” and “losers.” This system makes effective change and reform difficult, even when those changes are necessary.

However, ending global hunger is not a “winner” or “loser” issue. Dr. Gayle declares, “We must pull all of our resources and galvanize our moral will to end hunger […] there will be no losers.” 


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


1,000 Days Blog, 1,000 Days

Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

Agrilinks Blog

Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute

End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank

Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development

The Global Food Banking Network

Harvest 2050, Global Harvest Initiative

The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog, Humanitas Global Development

International Food Policy Research Institute News, IFPRI

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT

ONE Blog, ONE Campaign

One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute

Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute

Sense & Sustainability Blog, Sense & Sustainability

WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA


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