Global Food Institute Hosts Distinguished Leaders in the Fight against Hunger following White House Challenge Event

President Ellen M. Granberg, GFI founder Chef José Andrés and White House senior adviser Stephen K. Benjamin gave remarks about the importance of GFI’s work.

March 5, 2024

Jose Andres

José Andrés, founder of the Global Food Institute, addressed the reception in the City View Room. (Photos: William Atkins/GW Today)

The Global Food Institute at the George Washington University (GFI) hosted a reception Tuesday evening in the City View Room following an event at the White House that announced new commitments in the “White House Challenge to End Hunger and Build Healthy Communities,” which aims to end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases by 2030.

GW welcomed to the reception many congressional, state and federal officials and representatives from food-focused organizations, including U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services Adm. Rachel Levine, and Kim Norton, mayor of Rochester, Minn.

In her remarks, GW President Ellen M. Granberg recognized GFI’s role in working “to transform food systems and turn groundbreaking discoveries into life saving policies and strategies.”

“At GW, we know that cooperation is at the heart of progress,” she said. “That is why tonight we are convening voices that might not typically talk to one another so that we can identify ways that we can work together. Tonight is about building and amplifying the efforts of so many in this room and creating bold new opportunities to magnify this impact.”

Granberg introduced Stephen K. Benjamin, senior adviser to President Joe Biden and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, as “a global advocate for addressing the roots of hunger.”

Benjamin recognized GFI and GW for leading the way in addressing the challenges of global food systems. “I do know President Biden and Vice President Harris are so excited and proud about this collective achievement,” he said. “The reality is that great things happen when people do things together.”

GW President Granberg
President Granberg said that GFI is working "to transform food systems and turn groundbreaking discoveries into life saving policies and strategies.”

Benjamin introduced José Andrés, founder of the Global Food Institute, as having made his way from the White House event to the GW reception after a flight from South Africa through Central America and southern Mississippi, before landing back in Washington—a nod to Andrés’ heralded travels around the world to feed the hungry.

Andrés said one of the first lessons he learned when he opened his first restaurant in the District of Columbia in the early 1990s and met political leaders, “was making the right connections…establishing contact with these people doing amazing work on the Hill,” he said. “I always understood that the right connection was between policy, politics and boots on the ground.

“Politics should not be about fighting, but about building good policy, connecting the dots on the ground to achieve success. Smart policies are smart politics.”

Andrés explained that the idea for the Global Food Institute grew out of his work with D.C.’s Central Kitchen, “one of the best organizations in America and maybe the world,” and his humanitarian work in Haiti and feeding people during disasters around the world.

A donation of a single dollar, he said, could create economic opportunity, salvage food that was about to be thrown away, fight hunger, and bring off the street people returning to society, train them to be cooks and in the process provide them housing.

When he was in Haiti, Andrés said, he realized that the people trying to provide disaster relief had good intentions but an underdeveloped system for feeding people.

“When you have a situation where people are injured, you don’t send cooks, you send doctors and nurses. When you have a fire, you don’t send lawyers, you send firefighters.” Andrés said. “When you need to feed people, who do you think are the best people? Cooks!

“So why the Global Food Institute? I think we have great people in the right places but sometimes they don’t speak to each other,” Andrés continued. “Great policies can get lost when people with boots on the ground don’t sometimes understand how to implement them.”

GFI, he said, hopes to connect the people in the room with policymakers to come up with the best policies covering issues related to food—environment, climate change, national security—to end hunger in the world.

Summing up events at the White House and GW, McGovern, the House member from Massachusetts, noted the immorality of an estimated 40 million hungry individuals in the United States of America, the richest country in the history of the world. “Hunger is a political condition,” he said. “We can end it. We just need the political will. We can end it domestically. We can end it globally.”