Food for Thought: Why a Healthy Tomorrow Can Only Be Secured by the Young Leaders of Today
Next week I am honoured to be going to Johannesburg as a Counsellor for the One Young World Summit, where 1,300 young delegates will gather from 190 countries to debate many of the world's most pressing social issues.
I have no doubt they will develop solutions with inspirational youthful energy, optimism and insight. One such topic - one that I will be addressing - will be the growing blight of poor childhood health and the twin evils of hunger and obesity - issues I have spent much of the last 10 years trying to find some solutions to.
With this in mind, I plan to focus my contribution around two key areas.
Firstly I'll share with the delegates the story of a campaign I lead in the UK, following an influential report we published in February this year - "Averting a Recipe for Disaster".
The catalyst that ignited my imagination to create this report - which included insights from some of the most influential people working in health, food, charity and media - was the juxtaposition of two separate newspaper articles I'd read in the summer of 2011 - the first reported that a third of all girls born in the UK in 2011 would reach their 100th birthday. The second told us that by 2050 half of adults in the UK could be obese. It struck me that the adults of 2050 were the babies of today.
Our report, after months of research offered eight suggestions that Government, industry and communities could work towards together - as both macro and micro actions. The headline call focused on the vital need for a cross party, cross society, multi focused commitment to improving nutrition for babies and toddlers - a Food Manifesto for the Under Fives. The eight ideas we developed need refining, testing, developing and evaluating, but the good news is that one major UK city's local council has agreed to implement a number as a short pilot trial early next year.
It so happens that the 2011 generation of new parents are those represented by the One Young World delegates so I'll be inviting them to lead the formulation of more solutions to the problem, as their generation will be the first ever to seriously address and reverse the trend that my generation did nothing but increase.
The issue will be so relevant to many of them personally, emotionally, professionally and socially, and I have no doubt whatsoever that their energy, creativity and drive will bring better ideas that those in our report.
My second contribution will aim to be a rallying challenge, using the exceptional convergence of the One Young World experience with the fact that this generation is the first to really have political, social and economic power so young and therefore can create real global changes.
If I may claim, as a man of 46, to be a member of the world's youth - in-spirit - as defined by a state of mind not a stage of age - then I'll aim to excite them that the youthful spirit of the counsellors, married with the youthful energy of the delegates, can shine a light on some of the world's darkest problems and allow us to see them in a new perspective.
In a world where each delegate will be more united and have more in common with his or her fellow delegates than they do with their managers, parents and neighbours at home, my call will be to remind them that it is human behaviours and human relationships that define our societies -hunger and obesity after all, are failings in distribution, economics and education and not in the human's ability to feed ourselves sustainably.
In this context I'll use my experience in building the company I founded, Ella's Kitchen from an idea in my head to a multi-million dollar company, whose focus on profit and purpose to show that individuals can make a difference and change behaviours and relationships.
By the time I leave Johannesburg I will return home feeling not only inspired, energised and eager to have some of that youthful spirit infecting me, and the causes to which I focus my energies, but also feeling overwhelmingly optimistic through the potential of the One Young World-ers - that because of their generation's future leadership potential and knowing that our tomorrows can be better than our yesterdays.