On January 10th Food Tank: The Food Think Tank officially launches! The new exciting organization is founded by food and agriculture experts Ellen Gustafson and Danielle Nierenberg who have a strong commitment toward making our food system healthier and more sustainable. Of course finding ways to make our food production and consumption more cost efficient, environmentally friendly, and socially just is not an easy problem to solve and won’t happen overnight. However, this project is a positive direction in fixing the broken food structure and with time and the utmost support I believe it will create a significant difference in helping to reduce hunger, improve nutrition, and fight against the growing obesity epidemic. These food issues impact all of us! Don’t you agree?
With the New Year underway and we try to keep our promises to improve our diet and health, I thought it would be a great idea to look at the bigger picture on ways of cultivating a better food system. Ellen and Danielle have come up with 13 resolutions for changing the food system in 2013 that the world can’t afford to break with the devastation of nearly one billion people going to bed hungry every night and more than one billion suffering from the effects of being overweight and obese. Pay close attention to resolutions number 3 and 5, since those can be easily started today and kept for optimum health benefits!
1. Growing in Cities: Food production doesn’t only happen in fields or factories. Nearly one billion people worldwide produce food in cities. In Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, farmers are growing seeds of indigenous vegetables and selling them to rural farmers. At Bell Book & Candle restaurant in New York, customers are served rosemary, cherry tomatoes, romaine, and other produce grown from the restaurant’s aeroponic rooftop garden.
2. Creating Better Access: People’s Grocery in Oakland and Fresh Moves in Chicago bring mobile grocery stores to food deserts giving low-income consumers opportunities to make healthy food choices. Instead of chips and soda, they provide customers with affordable organic produce, not typically available in their communities.
3. Eaters Demanding Healthier Food: Food writer Michael Pollan advises not to eat anything that your grandparents wouldn’t recognize. Try eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole foods without preservatives and other additives.
4. Cooking More: Home economics classes have declined in schools in the United Kingdom and the U.S. and young people lack basic cooking skills. Top Chefs Jamie Oliver, Alice Waters, and Bill Telepan are working with schools to teach kids how to cook healthy, nutritious foods.
5. Creating Conviviality: According to the Hartman Group, nearly half of all adults in the U.S. eat meals alone. Sharing a meal with family and friends can foster community and conversation. Recent studies suggest that children who eat meals with their families are typically happier and more stable than those who do not.
6. Focus on Vegetables: Nearly two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies worldwide, leading to poor development. The World Vegetable Center, however, is helping farmers grow high-value, nutrient rich vegetables in Africa and Asia, improving health and increasing incomes.
7. Preventing Waste: Roughly one-third of all food is wasted—in fields, during transport, in storage, and in homes. But there are easy, inexpensive ways to prevent waste. Initiatives like Love Food, Hate Waste offer consumers tips about portion control and recipes for leftovers, while farmers in Bolivia are using solar-powered driers to preserve foods.
8. Engaging Youth: Making farming both intellectually and economically stimulating will help make the food system an attractive career option for youth. Across sub-Saharan Africa, cell phones and the internet are connecting farmers to information about weather and markets; in the U.S., Food Corps is teaching students how to grow and cook food, preparing them for a lifetime of healthy eating.
9. Protecting Workers: Farm and food workers across the world are fighting for better pay and working conditions. In Zimbabwe, the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ), protects laborers from abuse. In the U.S., the Coalition of Immokalee Workers successfully persuaded Trader Joe’s and Chipotle to pay the premium of a penny-per-pound to Florida tomato pickers.
10. Acknowledging the Importance of Farmers: Farmers aren’t just farmers, they’re business-women and men, stewards of the land, and educators, sharing knowledge in their communities. Slow Food International works with farmers all over the world, helping recognize their importance to preserve biodiversity and culture.
11. Recognizing the Role of Governments: Nations must implement policies that give everyone access to safe, affordable, healthy food. In Ghana and Brazil, government action, including national school feeding programs and increased support for sustainable agricultural production, greatly reduced the number of hungry people.
12. Changing the Metrics: Governments, NGOs, and funders have focused on increasing production and improving yields, rather than improving nutrition and protecting the environment. Changing the metrics, and focusing more on quality, will improve public and environmental health, and livelihoods.
13. Fixing the Broken Food System: Agriculture can be the solution to some of the world’s most pressing challenges—including unemployment, obesity, and climate change. These innovations simply need more research, more investment, and ultimately more funding.
What do you think? The resolutions make good sense to me! To learn more about the Food Tank project visit www.FoodTank.org.
About the founders:
Ellen Gustafson is a sustainable food system activist, innovator and social entrepreneur. Ellen was the Founder and Executive Director of the 30 Project, a think + do tank changing the conversation about the global food system by connecting hunger and obesity. The 30 Project brought together key organizations and activists working around the world on addressing hunger, obesity, and agriculture issues to talk about their visions for the food system’s future. She also co-founded FEED Projects, LLC and its corresponding non-profit foundation which has provided over 60 million school meals to children around the world through the sale of tote bags that promote the mission. Ellen is currently working on a book with Rodale Press tentatively entitled We the Eaters.
Danielle Nierenberg is an expert on sustainable agriculture and food issues. She recently spent two years traveling to more than 35 countries across sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Asia looking at environmentally sustainable ways of alleviating hunger and poverty. Her knowledge of global agriculture issues has been cited widely in more than 3,000 major publications including The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the International Herald Tribune, The Washington Post, BBC, the Guardian (UK), the Mail and Guardian (South Africa), the East African (Kenya), TIME magazine, Reuters, Agence France Presse, Voice of America, the Times of India, and other major publications. Danielle worked for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic and also currently serves as the food security adviser for Citizen Effect, an NGO focused on sustainable development projects worldwide.