Today the National Geographic Society, in collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), hosted Food: A Forum, to introduce an eight-month series on food. The final panel of the event,“Sustainable Sustenance,” covered the concept of sustainability and its implications for food. The panel included Jerry Glover, advisor for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Nadine Azzu, coordinator of a Global Environment Facility (GEF), United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) project on pollinators, Ben R. Jordan, director of supplier sustainability with The Coca-Cola Company, and celebrity chef José Andrés, founder of ThinkFoodGroup.
Panelists provided a variety of diverse perspectives in response to the first question, “What is the meaning of sustainability to you?” Glover stressed the need for soil maintenance, stating, “We must maintain soil resources; soil is nonrenewable for the most part, and rarely do we bring it back richer than how we found it originally. In many parts of the world we are mining nutrients at faster rates than they can be replaced.” Glover also stressed the benefit of perennial plants. He stated, “Our annual crops (maize, rice, wheat) function within a shallow depth, leaving the soil vulnerable to corrosion. Perennial plants can tap into a deeper pool of nutrients, which is good for droughts, etc.” Azzu reminded the audience of the more social and economic definitions of sustainability, while Jordan educated the audience on Coca-Cola’s three-pronged vision of sustainability, which is personal, social, and environmental.
Chef Andrés—representing the chefs of the world in this discussion—offered a detailed picture of the reality of preparing food for the world’s poorest. “Thirty thousand years ago we were cooking with rocks and wood, and today over one billion people still cook this way.” Simple, clean, sustainable stoves, argued chef Andrés, remove the dangers of smoke inhalation for the family. “The time a young girl spends cutting down trees could be spent giving her an education,” said chef Andrés.
National Geographic’s Future of Food Hackathon will continue the discussion on food, sustainability, and agriculture on May 3rd and 4th. Submit your project for the Future of Food today at the HackDash website.