Urban residents making up some 80 percent of the U.S. population remain disconnected from agricultural food sources and are increasingly afflicted by nutrition- and diet-related chronic disease, said Dr. Patrick Stover, Texas A&M University System vice chancellor and dean for agriculture and life sciences.
“About half of U.S. adults are acquiring some type of medical condition related to the food they eat, costing the country about $1 trillion each year,” he said.
Stover — also sole finalist to become director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research — said agricultural science must shift its focus beyond generating food to generating a “food environment that promotes healthy people.”
“We must enhance health-promoting qualities in agricultural commodities and connect growing urban populations to the rural agricultural activity improving their health and quality of life,” he said. “Agriculture must become integral to urban culture,” Stover said. “People today, as we become more urbanized, don’t know where our food comes from or its role in our health. That has to change.”
Meanwhile, he said, agricultural science must grow its capacity for harnessing “big data” to improve food quantity, quality and economic value based on the varying nutritional needs of individual persons.
During his visit, the vice chancellor met with regional leaders of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. They discussed efforts of the agency’s Healthy Texas initiative on preventive health, which includes a range of food and nutrition programming. He also met with AgriLife Extension’s regional 4-H officials to discuss ongoing learning initiatives at local schools.
“All of these programs represent a multi-discipline approach that brings to bear the full agricultural expertise of the Texas A&M University System to boost our economy, protect our resources and promote a high quality of life for Texans,” Stover said. “We believe our efforts over the next five years will place us in the midst of an agricultural revolution.”
Through the application of science-based knowledge, AgriLife Extension creates high-quality, relevant continuing education that encourages lasting and effective change.