I was recently asked to moderate a panel on food technology. Although I find the subject fascinating, I assumed most would find it esoteric. To my great surprise, more than 200 people showed up on a Monday night, and it was not just suburban mothers of newborns and aging hippies. The diverse crowd was filled with enthusiastic people cutting across race, age, and gender lines who want—and have the wherewithal—to change the world.
I saw in them something I have myself: impatience with our current food system and its negative effects on our health and our environment. Nearly three years ago, I founded the United States Healthful Food Council (USHFC) to help fight diet-related disease by realigning the food industry’s incentives with consumers’ health interests. We are admittedly somewhat of Johnny-come-lately to the food movement compared to other nonprofits such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the American Heart Association, the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, and all of the “food” organizations such as Slow Food, the Food Trust, and the Real Food Challenge.
That said, given the critical impact food has on virtually every facet of our lives, including the future of our planet, it is not possible for there to be too much emphasis on this issue. Each of these organizations, including USHFC, addresses a relatively specific failing of our food system: hunger, obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, monocultures, and animal cruelty. All of these issues are interrelated and we are all working towards the same goal—ensuring that our food system promotes, not hinders, the health of our planet and our people.
There is a growing interest in changing the agri-industrial food complex to improve our food system. I’ve witnessed it in everything from the attendance at events like the food technology panel, to the increasing amount of media attention food issues receive, to the recent success of documentaries such as Fed Up and books such as We the Eaters. It appears that for the first time in decades, “we” may have the power to affect real change. Never before has the focus on food been more intense, with so much to gain and so much to lose.
But, this can’t happen without collaboration across the spectrum of food interests. As someone who has spent most of my career fighting for change, I know that when battling entrenched interests, the most important step is knowing your allies and working together. The key to long-term success is quite simple: the bigger and broader your constituency, the greater your chances of success. Therefore, I’m issuing a call to action for greater collaboration across the food community. I encourage anyone who is interested to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.