2020 $100k Jean Mayer Prize from Tufts Nutrition awarded for tackling COVID-19 food crisis

Recipients honored for response and commitment to COVID-19 crisis to improving food access, nutrition, communities and culture

Green and blue (sky) image with words "Jean Mayer Prize for Excellence in Nutrition Science and Policy." Image of Jean Mayer in silhouette.

BOSTON (Sept. 30, 2020)—The Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University is awarding the school’s biennial $100,000 Jean Mayer Prize for Excellence in Nutrition Science and Policy to three organizations for their collective efforts to support food communities and empower individuals through food and nutrition before and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. A celebratory event will be held online on Oct. 14; register here.

The Jean Mayer Prize honors the legacy of Dr. Jean Mayer, the founder of the Friedman School and one of the world’s leading nutrition scientists who was instrumental in addressing hunger in the U.S. through engaged policy actions. This biennial award recognizes outstanding achievement in the science and/or policy of food and nutrition. The 2020 recipients:

  • The HEAL (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor) Food Alliance brings together food and farm justice groups to address corporate control and racism in our food and farm systems. HEAL is committed to creating systems that are healthy, accessible and affordable for all, and fair to the people who grow, distribute, prepare, and serve food, while protecting the air, water, and land. During the pandemic HEAL is organizing and advocating for resources for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) producers, and with frontline food workers for safer working conditions.
  • James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to celebrating, nurturing, and honoring chefs and other leaders who make America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone. During the COVID-19 crisis, the foundation has launched “Open for Good,” a campaign to support the recovery and rebuilding of an independent restaurant industry and is launching a new investment fund for Black and Indigenous-owned businesses impacted by COVID-19.
  • World Central Kitchen, a not-for-profit organization that uses the power of food to heal communities and strengthen economies in times of crisis. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has distributed more than 29 million fresh, nutritious meals to people and communities in need. Its Restaurants for the People program attacks the growing hunger and economic crises on two fronts by paying local restaurants to cook fresh meals for their neighbors in need—at the same time getting food to hungry people and keeping restaurants and their teams open and working. 

On Oct. 14, the school will host a virtual award ceremony, to be followed by a moderated discussion and audience Q&A with representatives from each organization. Director Navina Khanna will represent HEAL, chief executive officer Clare Reichenbach will represent the James Beard Foundation, and founder Chef José Andrés will represent World Central Kitchen. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School, will moderate the Q&A.

Registration is required for the ceremony and Q&A. More information and registration here.

The recipients will share the $100,000 prize, supported through a gift to the Friedman School from John Hancock.

“These three organizations have been powerful drivers for change and addressing pressing challenges in food and nutrition from the COVID-19 crisis,” said Mozaffarian, who is also Jean Mayer Professor at the Friedman School. “Whether advocating for support of Black, Indigenous, and people of color workers as they endeavor to create more equitable food systems; equipping chefs and restaurants with the tools and platforms they need to ensure more people have access to good, nutritious, sustainably produced food; or providing nutritious meals to those in need in the face of natural disasters, this year’s Jean Mayer Prize recipients together display a fierce passion for improving health, well being, and nutrition for all.”

“This year has reaffirmed our mission to help customers live longer, healthier lives and reinforced our commitment to incentivizing healthy activities,” said Brooks Tingle, president and CEO of John Hancock Insurance. “We are proud to collaborate with the Friedman School and congratulate today's Jean Mayer Prize recipients for the well-deserved recognition of their outstanding leadership. The work to improve the nutrition and overall health of society is more important than ever before.”

The award ceremony follows a week of virtual events for the launch of the school’s Food and Nutrition Innovation Institute, a new initiative bringing together science, industry, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits to foster education, innovation and entrepreneurship in food and nutrition. Events include the third Annual Friedman School Innovation Summit, which brings together experts to discuss solutions to current critical issues in the food system. More information about Innovation Week, Oct. 6-9, and registration information can be found here.

The inaugural Jean Mayer Prize was awarded in 2018 to Senator Tom Harkin, Former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and Mission: Readiness for their collective efforts to raise awareness of the risks of diet-related disease and advocacy for policies such as the 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act that champion better nutrition for children.

The awards are named after Jean Mayer, the 10th president of Tufts University and a leading nutrition scientist who founded the nutrition school at Tufts. Jean Mayer was an ardent supporter of policies and programs to improve health and nutrition for all. This award honors leaders who carry on his legacy.


About the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University

The Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University is the only independent school of nutrition in the United States. The school’s five divisions – which focus on questions relating to nutrition and chronic diseases, molecular nutrition, agriculture and sustainability, food security, humanitarian assistance, public health nutrition, and food policy and economics – are renowned for the application of scientific research to national and international policy.

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