Asia Society Texas Center

[WEBCAST] Global to Local: The Impact of COVID-19 on Food Security

Thursday, Jun. 11, 2020 – Thursday, Jun. 11, 2020

07:30 PM – 08:30 PM

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According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the world's food systems and disrupted regional agricultural trade and supply chains. The FAO has warned that food shortages are a real risk in the coming months, posing a threat to millions of people living in regions already vulnerable to food insecurity, malnutrition, and natural disasters, including climate-related disasters. A recent analysis by the World Food Program found that 130 million additional people — on top of the 135 million already experiencing acute malnutrition — will face hunger in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, many of them in Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

The threats are closer to home as well, as students in the U.S. face meal shortages with schools closed and workers who have been laid off struggle to make ends meet. A recent Brookings Institution survey found that, among mothers with young children, nearly one-fifth say their children are not getting enough to eat, a rate three times as high as in 2008 during the worst of the Great Recession. In Texas, more than 22 percent of children are food-insecure, according to advocacy group Children at Risk — a problem only exacerbated by COVID-19. Demand for food assistance is rising at an extraordinary rate, just as the nation's food banks are being struck by shortages of both donated food and volunteer workers and as a recent administration rule change has pushed nearly 700,000 people from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Join Asia Society for a discussion on how to address the growing crisis of food insecurity during the pandemic, including how food supply chains have had to adapt and the role of both global and local partnerships.


Thursday, June 11, 2020
7:30 p.m. CT — Moderated Discussion
8 p.m. CT — Audience Q&A (Questions welcome via YouTube Live and Facebook Live)

About the Speaker

Caitlin Welsh

Caitlin Welsh is the director of the Global Food Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where she provides insights and policy solutions to global food security challenges. She brings over a decade of U.S. government experience to this role. She served most recently in the National Security Council and National Economic Council as director of global economic engagement, where she coordinated U.S. policy in the G7 and G20 across multiple summits. Prior to the White House, Ms. Welsh spent over seven years in the Department of State’s Office of Global Food Security, including as acting director, offering guidance to the secretary of state on global food security and its relationship to urbanization, climate change, and conflict. As a presidential management fellow, Ms. Welsh oversaw a portfolio of agriculture-related grants at the U.S. African Development Foundation. Ms. Welsh also lived and worked in Morocco’s breadbasket region as a Peace Corps volunteer, witnessing the complex causes and effects of food insecurity and working to improve lives through education.Ms. Welsh received her B.A. from the University of Virginia and M.P.A. from Columbia University’s School of International Public Affairs. She hails from Erie, Pennsylvania, and speaks Arabic and French.

About the Moderator

Lisa Helfman

Lisa Helfman is the Director of Public Affairs Houston for H-E-B Grocery Company and served previously as the Director of Real Estate for them. Prior to joining H-E-B in 2014, Lisa served as Director of Real Estate Services at Texas Children’s Hospital where she created the Real Estate Services Department in order to centralize the hospital’s real estate operations. Lisa worked at Texas Children’s for seven years after leaving Vinson & Elkins law firm where she represented many urban redevelopment clients, non-profits, and government entities in financings, real estate, and other legal matters. Lisa received her JD Magna Cum Laude from the University of Houston Law Center and her BA Cum Laude from Tulane University.

When she isn’t representing H-E-B in the community, she is pushing kale smoothies to children all over underserved communities as the Founder and Board Chair of Brighter Bites. In the fall of 2011, Lisa and her family took part in a weekly fruit and vegetable co-op, and she watched her children’s eating habits transform — for the better. So much so that her little boy rejected a piece of cake at a birthday party, asking instead for the blueberries he’d grown fond of eating at home. Like most moms, Lisa realized this was a fairly significant decision for a six-year-old, and she wondered what kind of influence regular access to fresh produce might have on all children.

She was inspired to replicate this type of positive change in underserved communities identified as “food deserts,” or areas with limited access to grocery stores. Because nutrition education in these communities is often equally lacking, Lisa’s vision was to bring a produce co-op to schools in these neighborhoods that included an educational component while also making it fun. She created a collaborative partnership with Dr. Shreela Sharma at the University of Texas School of Public Health, and launched the program now known as Brighter Bites in 2012. Eight years later, Brighter Bites has delivered over 25,000,000 pounds of fresh produce and 100,000s of education materials to more than 300,000 individuals (including teachers!) across 125+ participating schools in Houston, Dallas, Austin, New York City, Washington D.C., and Southwest Florida. In 2019, the Houston-Galveston chapter of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship named Lisa its Humanitarian of the Year, Newcomb College at Tulane University also named Lisa its Community Service Alumni of the Year and Business Insider named her and Shreela to their list of top 100 Coolest People in Food and Drink.

Asia Society hosts today's leading voices, providing commentary on events in news, society, and culture. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect Asia Society views.

Asia Society Texas Center Business & Policy Programs, Endowed by

Huffington Foundation

Business and Policy programs at Asia Society Texas Center are presented by Bank of America, Muffet Blake, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, United Airlines, and Wells Fargo. Major support comes from Nancy C. Allen, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, Nancy Pollok Guinee, and Mary Lawrence Porter, as well as The Brown Foundation, Inc. and Houston Endowment. Additional funding is provided by the Friends of Asia Society Texas Center, a dedicated group of individuals and organizations committed to bringing the best in public programming.

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About Asia Society at Home

Though Asia Society is temporarily closed, we are dedicated to continuing our mission of building cross-cultural understanding and uplifting human connectivity. Using digital tools, we bring you content for all ages and conversations that matter, in order to spark curiosity about Asia and to foster empathy.

About Asia Society Texas Center

With 13 locations throughout the world, Asia Society is the leading educational organization promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among the peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and West. Asia Society Texas Center executes the global mission with a local focus, enriching and engaging the vast diversity of Houston through innovative, relevant programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach.


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