National Food Security Experts and Advocates Aim to Foster Greater Health Innovation in Chicago

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

Fifty leaders from the Chicago area and beyond met last Thursday to discuss innovative solutions to the food insecurity that exists in our city and region, along with how to best mobilize and scale action around the issue.

Hosted at MATTER, Chicago’s recently launched healthcare technology incubator, in partnership with the Chicago Department of Public Health and national nonprofit organization Hope Street Group, the daylong convening explored how food insecurity directly impacts economic opportunity and what key barriers need to be addressed to make progress in this space.

“Food Security is at the very core of public health in Chicago. It is a cross-cutting issue, which requires policy, systems and environmental changes,” said Chicago Department of Public Health Acting Commissioner Julie Morita, MD. “Chicagoans in all neighborhoods need access to healthy and affordable food in order to live healthy and productive lives.”

Participants of the event, “Moving Towards a Healthy Chicago: Cross-Sector Collaboration to Ensure Food Security,” included Jay Bhatt, Managing Deputy Commissioner and Chief Innovation Officer, Chicago Department of Public Health; Kathy Dickhut, Deputy Commissioner, City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development; Luann Hamilton, Deputy Commissioner, Chicago Department of Transportation; Rajesh Karmani, Founder and Chief Impact Officer at Zero Percent; Mari Gallagher, Founding President of the National Center for Public Research; Kristy Kitzmiller, President, Louis’ Groceries; and many others. Seth Goldman, Co-Founder and TeaEO of Honest Tea, and Professor Daniel Block of Chicago State University served as introductory speakers.

Throughout the discussion, participants from nonprofit, business, and government focused on how to collaborate across organizations and sectors to drive health innovation that will have a significant impact for Chicago families.

“It was an honor to be in the room with so many distinguished leaders from Chicago and around the country,” said participant Wolfram Alderson, Founding Executive at the Institute for Responsible Nutrition. “Addressing food security and transforming our food system so that it conveys health instead of disease and malnutrition is one of the greatest challenges of our time.”

“Seeking out innovative solutions to address the ongoing problem of food insecurity is crucial, which is why we were so pleased to host this dynamic event at MATTER’s incubator space, which lends itself to thinking boldly about the potential of health technology to revamp the system” said Martin Scaglione, President and CEO of Hope Street Group.

Next steps defined include leveraging current community infrastructure and engaging thoughtfully with all communities in Chicago currently affected by high food insecurity. Participants also plan to disseminate findings, research, and lessons learned through a user-friendly technology interface; construct a sustainable funding model to address food insecurity; and aggregate best practices and ideas to increase impact.

The meeting kicks off a larger effort by the group to improve regional innovation and investments in improving food security. Food insecurity remains high in Cook County, with a Map the Meal Gap 2014 survey showing nearly 800,000 people, including 1 in 5 children, at risk of hunger. Lack of access to food frequently combines with a number of other social variables to negatively impact an individual’s opportunities for mobility and growth, thus addressing this issue is of utmost importance to the Chicago community.

The initial idea for the convening and innovation challenge was derived from a project on community wellness that Hope Street Group, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, executed in 2014. This project identified a need for greater community collaboration, investment, and ownership to further citywide health and wellness initiatives.

Chicago was selected to host the meeting due to its commitment to addressing food insecurity and the Chicago Department of Public Health’s upcoming launch of Healthy Chicago 2.0 this summer.

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Hope Street Group is a national nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding economic opportunity for all Americans. Founded by a small group of young entrepreneurs on South Hope Street in Los Angeles, we work to expand social impact in education, health, and jobs.

The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) works to make Chicago a safer and healthier place by working with community partners to promote health, prevent disease, reduce environmental hazards and ensure access to health care for all Chicagoans. Visit us at to learn more about how CDPH is transforming the health of our city.

MATTER is a community of healthcare entrepreneurs and industry leaders working together in a shared space to individually and collectively fuel the future of healthcare innovation. MATTER’s mission is to proactively connect and promote collaboration between entrepreneurs, scientists, physicians and industry partners in order to bring next-generation products and services to market that improve quality of care and save lives. For more information, visit

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