In officially launching the George Washington University Global Food Institute on Tuesday, founder José Andrés told a capacity audience at Jack Morton Auditorium that, in fact, the collective belief of students, faculty, leadership, and government officials in the mission of the institute made each of them a “founder” in their own way.
The institute “happened because many people believed that this can be something to help us move forward … one day the world will not know hunger anymore because this institute did its job,” said Andrés, a world-renowned chef, humanitarian, author and— now—a GW professor of practice for food and society.
Andrés, HON ’14, also reflected on his long relationship with GW, expressing gratitude for having the opportunity to explore global food issues in his popular “The World on a Plate: How Food Shapes Civilization” course, and for how his relationship with GW ultimately led to the Global Food Institute partnership.
“They don’t know what they did when they opened the door to me,” he joked.
Saying that the world is hungry for change, Andrés likened the approach of the institute to “rewriting recipes when the old recipes aren’t working.”
“We can—more important, we must—put food at the heart of creating a better world,” he said.
Tuesday’s celebratory event marked the official launch of the new Global Food Institute, which plans on being the world leader in delivering food systems solutions, and attracted attendees including members of the GW community, donors, government officials, and corporate, foundation, and nonprofit partners.
In his remarks, President Mark S. Wrighton said GW’s broad expertise and history of finding innovative solutions to the world’s most challenging problems primed the university to take on the challenge of changing the world through the power of food. And Andrés has been a visionary leader and great partner in launching the Global Food Institute, he added.
“Innovative solutions are discovered by innovative leaders,” Wrighton said.
Provost Christopher A. Bracey echoed Wrighton’s praise.
"I have had the distinct pleasure to work with José Andrés, his team and the talented faculty at the George Washington University to identify ways that the university can embrace food to solve many of the world’s biggest problems," Bracey said. "It has been my distinct privilege to stand beside [Andrés] as we unveil this groundbreaking institute."
Ambassador Susan Rice, domestic policy advisor in the Biden administration, also participated in the event, speaking about domestic problems with food, including malnutrition and diabetes, and expressed her excitement about how the Global Food Institute’s interdisciplinary teaching, learning and action will help lead the charge in solving such critical issues.
“It’s an example of the kind of ambition society needs to address our hunger and nutrition challenges,” Rice said. “This institute is designed to break down silos and unite people across society to achieve far-reaching impact.”
Expert discussion on food system solutions
Also Tuesday, Dana Bash, B.A. ’93, HON ’22, and CNN’s chief political correspondent, moderated a conversation that addressed innovative solutions to global issues through the lens of food with Andrés and Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation. Rockefeller Foundation was among the donors recognized for committing financial support to the Global Food Institute.
They discussed how global humanitarian crises, such as the war in Ukraine, create food insecurity; climate change; and the need to invest in science and apply scientific thinking to reshaping the global food system.
“The biggest thing José does, whenever he wants to tackle something, is invents a new way to solve an old problem… it tends to be better, it tends to be more durable, and it tends to be the right thing to do at the time,” Shah said.
Andrés and Shah also spoke of the importance of the institute taking advantage of its D.C. location and the importance of working across political aisles to engage politicians and government officials to effect solutions.
“This institute being based in D.C., being focused on policy, and being willing to break the rules, to think outside the box on these solutions has so much opportunity,” Shah said.
The event also was an opportunity to recognize leaders who made critical contributions to help launch the institute.
In addition to recognizing Andrés and the Rockefeller Foundation, Wrighton acknowledged Nelson A. Carbonell, Jr., B.S. ’85, HON ’21, chair emeritus of the GW Board of Trustees, and Michele M. Carbonell, for endowing the Carbonell Family Executive Director of the Global Food Institute.
"Now is the moment to begin the necessary transformations to address global food concerns through an unmatched multidisciplinary approach,” said Carbonell. “Through our donation, Michele and I hope to furnish the financial support to enable GW to recruit an inspiring and accomplished leader to be director of the Global Food Institute."
Wrighton also thanked Ave Tucker, B.B.A. ’77, secretary of the Board of Trustees, and Dianne Bostick for committing a substantial gift to the institute.
“Dianne and I are proud to support José Andrés and GW’s Global Food Institute and its ambitious plans to address national and international food systems issues.” Tucker said. “I’m happy that GW and José have come together to help solve the world’s problems.”
Looking forward, Bracey said, the university will launch a search for the Carbonell Family Executive Director of the Global Food Institute and form the Global Food Institute Leadership Council, which will include individuals and organizations working to advance the institute’s outcomes across its policy, innovation, and humanity pillars through their philanthropy. The institute also will begin to develop engagement opportunities for the community and potential partners.
Additional information about the Global Food Institute can be found at globalfoodinstitute.gwu.edu.