Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Jessica Rosen, Senior Sustainability Advisor for Forum for the Future, 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?
Jessica Rosen (JR): That collaboration is key to a more sustainable food system. There are so many inspiring organizations, initiatives, and innovations to be excited about, but our impacts will be limited unless we collaborate to ensure we’re covering the whole system: prioritizing our efforts, avoiding redundancies, and optimizing our resources so we can achieve a sustainable food system, sooner rather than later.
FT: How are you contributing to building a better food system?
JR: At Forum for the Future, we work in partnership with some of the world’s biggest food companies who care about sustainability. Our mission is to accelerate the transition towards a sustainable food system – one that gives everyone access to healthy, nutritious food, while protecting and restoring the natural environment. We achieve this by rethinking how value is created across food networks (not just linear supply or value chains), reconnecting people with their food, and restoring resilience within the food system.
The scale at which our partners operate is massive, so the smallest positive change we can contribute to their strategies, business models, or operations has a ripple effect throughout the food system. We also work on scaling up smaller, entrepreneurial food companies who are innovating and disrupting the system from the bottom-up, as well as our fellow NGOs and other sustainability peers, so we include all stakeholders and address challenges from all sides. Finally, Forum for the Future is not just about food – we apply systems thinking to sustainability so we also work in energy, ICT, retail, and more.
FT: What are the biggest obstacles or challenges you face in achieving your organization’s goals?
JR: The biggest challenge is getting people to think systemically. Traditionally, disciplines within – and beyond – food have operated in silos. Sustainability is about knocking down those silos. It pushes boundaries and makes people uncomfortable. That’s slowly changing as dealing with huge challenges like population growth, water scarcity, land degradation, and changing consumer demands has made sustainability a business imperative.
FT: Who is your food hero and why?
JR: Farmers are my heroes. Too often are they excluded from conversations and decisions made about food. From my time spent working with farmers in Guatemala, Indonesia, and Cuba, and getting my own hands dirty farming in Guatemala and upstate New York, I know farming is not to be romanticized. But the knowledge, stewardship, and resiliency of farmers never ceases to amaze me. Where would we be without them? It is the hardest, most underappreciated job in the world.
FT: In 140 characters or fewer, what is the most important thing we can all do to help change the food system.
JR: Being more conscious eaters, consumers, and citizens more generally will go a long way.