Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Diana Donlon, Cool Food Campaign Director at the Center for Food Safety, who was one of the speakers at the 2015 Food Tank Summit in partnership with The George Washington University.
Food Tank (FT): What will your message be at the Food Tank Summit?
Diana Donlon (DD): We have an opportunity to address multiple systemic problems by rebuilding soil health on a global scale. Some of the multiple benefits of healthy soil include improved yields and greater availability of nutrients in food; increased retention and supply of precious fresh water; and, as more carbon is stored in soil, reduced greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, widespread disregard for soil as the basis of our food system has led to desertification, hunger, and climate instability.
The great news is we can feed our carbon-hungry soils. Rebuilding soil carbon, and thus soil health, is a zero-risk, low-cost proposition. Most importantly, it has universal application, and we know how to do it. We can rebuild soil by adopting regenerative agriculture, including poly-culture, cover cropping, agro-forestry, and nutrient recycling, and through organic soil amendments like compost and biochar. All that stands in our way is political will.
(FT): How are you contributing to building a better food system?
(DD): We are working at the nexus of food and climate to promote a food system that is healthy for us and for the climate. Within this context we’ve identified “soil solutions to climate problems” as the area where we can make the biggest, most exciting contribution. We’re distilling the key messages of soil scientists and carbon ranchers, making them accessible to the broader climate community. The Cool Foods Campaign is offering a solutions-oriented approach to the climate crisis. We’re creating original content, like easy-to-share infographics articles, videos, and reports. Our goal is to use 2015 — the United Nation’s “International Year of Soils” — to add “rebuilding soil health” to the food and climate movements. According to esteemed soil scientist Rattan Lal, 50-70 percent of the world’s cultivated soils are degraded, so the opportunity is vast and has global application.
(FT): What are the biggest obstacles or challenges you face in achieving your organization’s goals?
(DD): The climate community tends to be very technology focused, and agriculture is not always part of the conversation. We are working to change that. Depending how it is practiced, agriculture can either contribute substantially to the climate crisis or help mitigate it. We need to bring the power of biology, as well as nature’s capacity of renewal, to the climate movement and the food movement.
(FT): Who is your food hero and why?
(DD): Andrew Kimbrell, the founder and executive director of Center for Food Safety, is my food hero. For more than 15 years, he has been protecting the public from novel technologies in our food supply and promoting sustainable agriculture. Andrew Kimbrell has successfully challenged federal agencies to do their jobs protecting the public. An author and activist promoting sustainable forms of agriculture and organic policies, Kimbrell has challenged the logic and lawfulness of industrial agriculture in numerous published articles and public forums. I’m delighted to be working with Andrew and Center for Food Safety – the Cool Foods Campaign’s amazing parent organization.
(FT): In 140 characters or fewer what is the most important thing we can all do to help change the food system?
(DD): Healthy soil stores water, improves food yields & sequesters carbon. Building healthy soil present a global solution to climate problems.