There has been a great deal of buzz and enthusiasm around the food system, with the conversation ranging from food deserts to food waste. What do you think led to this shift in the paradigm and how do you expect momentum to grow or change going forward?
Several confounding factors have led to ‘food issues’ becoming more mainstream. A major reason people pay attention to anything is because it affects their own lives. The growth of obesity, particularly in low income communities, diabetes (which is now developing at a much younger age), falling life expectancy, and heart disease have made people realize that their health is at risk and food may be a culprit. Looking deeper, because many of these diet related diseases fall along socio-economic divides with obesity and malnutrition in the same populations, and the fact that income inequality is now a part of the national dialogue, food, next to jobs, is at the center of that debate. Supporting factors include the continued organization of the climate movement priming more people to pay attention to industrial agriculture, a general distrust of big industrialized corporations with the fallout of tobacco, a growing interest in the craft economy driving farming and food culture to be ‘cool’ again, and hundreds of food safety scares with listeria, e.coli, and pink slime dominating the news.
I think momentum will grow because the food movement is still not fully mainstream and has a long way to go. It hasn’t reached anti-tobacco levels, but I think this is inevitable. I think the private sector will lead the way, as it has been, entirely driven by consumer demand. However, policy change is necessary. Much of our food system remains entrenched in its ways because our policies support it. We know policy change is a lagging indicator, so I think private sector change will drive local and state policy change, but we won’t see a full reform of our food system until we set a national food policy.
Hope Street Group believes economic opportunity is bolstered by the three pillars of education, health and jobs. How do you view the relationship between healthy eating habits and a sustainable food systems, and overall well-being and opportunity?
Healthy eating is at the core of well-being and opportunity. Without adequate nutrition, you won’t have as much energy, you won’t have as sharp of a mind, and you’ll be at risk of getting sick. This costs money and time – keeping kids out of school, parents out of work, and further entrenching existing inequalities. Access to healthy food and healthy habits isn’t a silver bullet solution, but it is a necessary condition for improved well-being and access to opportunity.
In our work in food insecurity, Hope Street Group has identified the reduction food waste as a tangible solution in decreasing food insecurity, which is a direct barrier to health and economic opportunity. Through Foodstand’s #NoFoodWaste initiative, what accessible recommendations were offered to consumers to reduce their food waste footprint?
Gosh, hundreds! According to the ReFED report on food waste, ~85% of food waste occurs at the consumer level – either in homes or at consumer-facing establishments such as restaurants, cafeterias, and grocery stores. Therefore, each of us has a role to play in curbing food waste to unlock more fresh fruits and vegetables for people who need them most. More than 40% of food that is wasted is produce — the one thing we need more of in underserved communities. Some of the most important tips that came out of our #NoFoodWaste campaign include:
Hundreds of other food waste tips and recipes can be found at thefoodstand.com!
Given all the great work happening to combat food waste in the U.S., what innovations are you most excited about and are there any issue areas you see as ripe for development that are critical in providing Americans with pathways to economic opportunity?
There are so many initiatives that are under way – many of which haven’t originated in the US, but we’re quickly catching up.