Zoe Finch Totten

Ashoka Fellow
United States, North America
Fellow Since 2012
My work: Making food quality central to employers, providers and healthcare programs and their practices and benefits.

Citation

This profile was prepared when Zoe Finch Totten was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Zoe Finch Totten is putting food back at the center of our national conversation about health. She believes in a simple formula: That our health depends in large part on the quality of the foods we eat. And yet in the United States, despite diet-related chronic illness on the rise and health care costs out of control, this simple truth seems to be largely overlooked. Over the last 50 years, Americans’ relationship with food has evolved into one of convenience that in many ways fuels preventable illnesses and strains our health system to treat those illnesses – forming a perverse equilibrium that the country’s political and economic forces have both enabled and sustained. Zoe founded The Full Yield to create a new equilibrium: One where the food and health care industries are no longer diametrically opposed but rather working together to promote health through mutually profitable partnerships.

The Full Yield, Inc. takes its name from farmers: if you start with high quality seeds, protect your soil to maintain and improve its inherent richness, water when necessary, and get lucky with the weather and the bugs, you’ll get a “full yield”—the greatest crops those seeds can produce.

Zoe uses this metaphor for both the individual body and for our collective culture: The Full Yield is both a comprehensive wellness program to help individuals transform their diet and a strategic and operational partner for corporations and industries interested in reducing the burden of health care expenditures and the economic cost of sick workers. The Full Yield generates demand for “health-supporting foods” from major forces in the U.S. economy like health care payers by framing health and wellness not only in terms of our well-being but also in terms of economic productivity. It then leverages this demand to push for alternative business models and supply chains within the food industry that support nutrition and health. Ultimately Zoe is working to prove that everyone – individuals, corporations, insurers, taxpayers, and even food manufacturers – can benefit from this new alignment, and that there is no other way to realistically address both a health and economic problem that will likely represent America’s greatest challenge over the next generation.

The Full Yield was founded in 2003 and its pilot partnership began in Massachusetts in 2008 with the nationally acclaimed Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Roche Bros. Supermarkets, seven employers – including John Hancock, EMC, and the City of Boston—along with three food manufacturers and three food service providers. Her strategy is to stimulate similar regional groundswells across the United States, targeting health providers, employers, and food industry players willing to collaborate along a new value chain and lead fundamental transformation in their industries. The ultimate aim is to transform our culture from a health-depleting one into a health-supporting one.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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