Hi Slow Foodies,
Last week, I had the privilege of attending the 1st Annual Food Tank Summit, and doing my radio show from there. The event was jam packed with speakers who have an invested interest in food, whether it be scientists, elected officials, all sectors of the food business, journalists, food insecurity, food waste, or fair labor issues, they all had a place at the table. Each day was set up with 5 panels, and there was a keynote speaker before each session. It was held in the auditorium at George Washington University, and was broadcast live through their website. I am waiting for the recordings of the panels to be up on their website, and then I will share them with you, but in the meantime, I wanted to share a few of the highlights and one not so happy moment for me at the end of the last day. The obvious highlight was having the opportunity to hear from so many amazing people in just 2 days. Kathleen Merrigan, a long time supporter of locally grown and organic foods, and the former US Deputy Secretary of the Dept. of Agriculture, opened up the event with the first keynote address, followed by a panel on Cultivating Better Urban Food. The next panel was looking at the problem of Food Waste, and some of the solutions and challenges that still need work. Lots of statistics were thrown out, like 1/3 of all the food grown globally is wasted, and that the amount of food wasted would be enough to feed all of the hungry people on the planet, but one of the most alarming statistics I heard, was that if Food Waste was a nation, it would be #3 in carbon emissions. That is astounding and we clearly need to do something about that! Then the next panel was looking at the family farmer, and what constitutes a family farmer. Did you know that 80% of the food grown globally is grown by small family farmers, using very little of our natural resources, compared to the factory farming in the U.S, which uses 75% of the natural resources, yet produces very little actual food that is consumed by people. Most of what is grown in the US is used as feed for animals or corn for ethanol. Then there was the panel on the “Story of Food”, moderated by Allison Aubrey from NPR’s SALT, discussing people’s interest in food, food policy, food safety, and how it impacts our environment. The last panel of the first day was about the Business of Food, and how consumer interest in organic and naturally raised food is driving the market. Both Panera Bread and Chipolte were there, discussing the challenges in finding enough supply to meet their markets, as well as a representative from Niman Ranch, Oxfam and Marriott Hotels. We finished up the first day with a keynote speech from Michel Nischan, the founder of Wholesome Wave, a social enterprise striving to improve the health of low income communities by creating a more sustainable food system, and providing them with fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables.
The second day I was preparing for my show in the morning, so I missed hearing Saru Jayaraman, from the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United speak, but I’ve had her as a guest on my show, so I can only imagine how inspiring her talk was. She set the stage for the first panel on “Recognizing Workers in the Food System.” The second panel was on “Pushing for Better Agriculture Research and Policy” and was filled with people passionate about their organizations. We heard from the Earth Policy Institute, The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Humanitas Global, Harvard Law School, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Org, and Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture. Pamela Hess from Arcadia Center shared with us her history as a journalist during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and all the people she met who had a leg or arm amputated as a result of the war. She then shared that more people have limbs amputated as a result of Diabetes, which is a food related illness, and that people of color are 4 times more likely to have a limb amputated than a white person. It is clearly a disease of poverty and is preventable! Her organization brings mobile fresh fruit and vegetable markets into the DC communities that need it the most, and are making real connections with the people that live there. The afternoon had three panels; Pushing for International Agreements: The Milan Protocol, The True Cost Accounting in the Food System, and Democratizing Innovation. The first two panels shared the mission of looking at our global food systems, while trying to educate the public that good food is worth paying for, and that cheap food is only cheap because it is not paying the true costs of the goods. The responsibility of cleaning up the environment caused by cheap food, falls on the tax payer, instead of the food producer, and the cost of food related diseases is over $190 billion dollars a year, also paid for by taxpayers. The food industry is not held liable! In developing countries, most of the farmers are women, and we need to invest in women farmers and help fight many of the cultural norms that hold women down. The panelists were great, and could have talked all day about these topics, had they had more time, but did a great job with the time allotted. My problem was on the last panel, Democratizing Innovations, where we heard from Aaron McNevin from the World Wildlife Fund, (WWF) and found out that they are partnering with DuPont, in creating fish food for Farm Raised Salmon. I’m sorry, but I don’t trust a company like DuPont for anything, especially when they won’t tell you what the fish food is made from because it is proprietary information. As Americans, we seem to have such a short memory. DuPont is the company that developed the Terminator Gene, a seed that can not reproduce, and brought us Agent Orange. They were recently fined 1.27 million dollars for trying to cover up a leak of methyl chloride, that killed a worker and polluted a nearby river in West Virginia, they have pending lawsuits for polluting groundwater with C8, a by product of the production of Teflon and Gore-Tex, and they recently settled a lawsuit and agreed to pay $531,000 for a violation of the Clean Air Act at its chemical manufacturing plant in New Jersey. The list goes on and on. Is this the type of company that the WWF should be partnering with? Another one of the panelists, Jessica Rosen from the Forum for the Future, talked about their partnership with Unilever, another company that has had many lawsuits and fines for violations in water polluting and air polluting. Are these the type of companies we want our environmental organizations to partner with? I don’t think so! What are our options?
– Bhavani Jaroff
Slow Food North Shore Chapter Leader