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U. expert presents on emerging food systems at Hans Fisher Lectureship

An event for the Hans Fisher Lectureship was held at the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health building on Cook campus last week.  – Photo by

On Friday, the Department of Nutritional Sciences presented the Hans Fisher Lectureship at the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health building on Cook campus.

The Hans Fisher Lectureship is dedicated to Hans Fisher, the founder of the University's Department of Nutritional Sciences. Fisher conducted research that provided essential information about nutritional sciences. 

Joshua Miller, the chair of the Rutgers Department of Nutritional Sciences, opened the presentation, followed by another brief introduction from Laura Lawson, the executive dean of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. Fisher himself participated in the event via Zoom. 

Patrick Stover, the director of the Institute for Advancing Health through Agriculture and a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at Texas A&M University, was the event's main speaker who presented on enhancing the purpose of food.

Stover began his presentation by discussing his research at Texas A&M and how it sparked his interest in his presentation topic.

He then explained how the global population's constant growth necessitates a more intensive food production system. He also said food production should be reevaluated to consider healthier nutritional options since contemporary diets often lead to health issues in the U.S.

Stover said diet-related diseases consume most health care costs. He described a diagram explaining the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes and obesity from 2004 to 2019.

Stover also discussed how nutritional issues can be a factor in varying life expectancy rates between ethnicities. Non-Hispanic white and Asian populations had higher rates compared to Indigenous and Hispanic populations.

"You now have this disparity as well in life expectancy that's continuing to grow," he said. "This isn't sustainable. You can't have a functional society where you have this sort of disparity. It's especially acute in this country, and a lot of it is rooted in food and the food system we have today."

Stover pointed out the importance of acknowledging the intersection between food, people's health care, the environment and economics. He said all four of these components are aligned with reducing hunger and improving health.

Regarding his work, Stover said he has collaborated with researchers to monitor chronic disease. He mentioned that other factors that affect chronic disease beyond diet include sleeping habits, stress and frequency of exercise.

Stover and his fellow researchers are also examining evolutionary biology, specifically which genomes have evolved and which have not.

"How do you tailor an entire agricultural and food system when there's a heterogeneous population and people who are going to respond differently when you have that health outcome?" Stover said.

He concluded his presentation by re-emphasizing the goal of focusing on human health as an endpoint instead of ending hunger. The food system must prioritize research and make agriculture the solution to diet-related chronic diseases, he said.

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