Embarking on new frontiers: reflections on a nourishing journey with GAIN and the Workforce Nutrition Alliance

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By Mirjam Kneepkens – As I bid adieu to a great chapter in my life as Senior Associate for Workforce Nutrition at the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and – of course – to fantastic colleagues, to take on my new role as Nutrition & Health Manager at ofi,I want to share some reflections about the experiences that have shaped my work over the past eight years. What I’m most proud of is that our work has been determined by a blend of passion, innovation, evidence-based hands-on solutions and, importantly, an unwavering commitment to fostering positive change.

Mirjam Kneepkens, Nutrition & Health Manager at ofi, ex-Senior Associate at the Workforce Nutrition Programme, GAIN

Bridging advocacy and implementation for lasting impact
My voyage has encompassed planning and implementing advocacy strategies, also embracing outcome-focused implementation on the ground. I’ve witnessed the Workforce Nutrition Alliance’s strategic evolution first-hand, with activities building on the work GAIN is doing with partners, actively engaging in comprehensive workforce nutrition programmes in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). Reaching out to farmers and workers in global supply chains in GAIN’s focus countries has added layers of complexity and significance to my work, making it both interesting and profoundly impactful. Understanding the realities locally, building case studies and weaving them into high-level advocacy has been a symbiotic dance, opening doors to new opportunities reaching the most vulnerable in our society.

Championing change and its challenges
Driving workforce nutrition advocacy has been both a challenge and a privilege. Despite the obvious benefits, the cause often relies on personal advocates. These trailblazers play a pivotal role in building evidence and best practices, steering workforce nutrition to become a standard practice around the world. I can’t wait for that to happen.

In an ideal world, I would highlight a hundred people but there isn’t the space for that. Instead, here is just one example: Takaaki Nishii, CEO of Ajinomoto CEO. He is passionate about workforce nutrition and has inculcated that enthusiasm throughout the organisation. After his company had implemented workforce nutrition programmes, over 80% of employees said they felt the company was creating a healthier and more positive work environment. It’s an important lesson that workforce nutrition is a transformative force in the real world, and that passion can drive change.

One remarkable insight I’ve seen time and again is that anyone within a company can be a change maker. From CEO to global sustainability experts to local HR personnel, change can come from anywhere.

There is, however, a danger that workforce nutrition can fall between the cracks of different departments’ responsibilities. However, I see a promising trend of companies creating specific roles at operational interfaces, dedicated to building and progressing workforce nutrition.

Effective change, in my experience, arises from collaboration and collective efforts. Building bridges and fostering cooperation are the very pillars of transformative success. Long may this trend last.

The power of partnership: the collaboration with CGF
The power of partnership has been a guiding force in my time at the Workforce Nutrition Alliance and I extend my deepest appreciation to the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF). Our collaborative efforts, driven by a common mission, have been mutually enriching. To my colleagues at CGF and GAIN, thank you for the privilege of working with passionate, intelligent, and fun people. I will miss the camaraderie we shared in our pursuit of a healthier, better-nourished world.

As I say farewell, I carry with me the profound realisation that this is not an end but a continuation of our collective endeavour.

Mirjam Kneepkens, Senior Associate, Workforce Nutrition Programme, GAIN

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