Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Laurie Benson, founder of 1% For Women, 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?
Laurie Benson (LB): Women in agriculture play a critical role in shaping our future and need access to greater resources. 1% For Women follows a business model that allows individuals and organizations of all sizes to actively participate in being a part of creating this shift in a deliberate and sustainable manner.
Our 1% For Women Businesses are engaging in conversations and educational opportunities that raise the level of awareness needed to empower women.
The ripple effect created from supporting women in agriculture is truly felt around the world. By allowing a mechanism for businesses in the United States to fund loans for women around the world, we are broadening our idea of community and creating a greater understanding of the interconnected nature of all of our actions.
FT: How are you contributing to building a better food system?
LB: My organization supports businesses that commit one percent of their net profit to microcredit loans for women in agriculture around the world. We are empowering and supporting women who are healing their families, their communities and the land. We also partner with women farmers and ranchers in the U.S. to increase access to capital, continued education, and broader market opportunities. We are creating events that both support existing agriculturalists, and encourage potential women farmers, through scholarships, collaboration, and networking.
FT: What are the biggest obstacles or challenges you face in achieving your organization’s goals?
LB: We live in a time where oppression of women is still incredibly prevalent in most societies. Our greatest challenge is breaking through the cultural barriers to enable women to grow and succeed in their work. We face the challenge of encouraging others to put their support and energy into people versus technology. We must re-engage on a human level.
FT: Who is your food hero and why?
LB: I have two. Rachel Carson, because she began the conversation about the impact of the chemicals used on our food. She communicated to the world that we are a vulnerable part of the natural world, subject to the same damage as the rest of the ecosystem.
And Allan Savory, because his work has persevered through exile and condemnation from his country, fellow scientists, and the general masses. His work has created water and food security for incredible numbers of people around the world. He has dedicated his life to delivering his technique and message of healing life cycles to as many people as possible.
FT: In 140 characters or fewer, what is the most important thing we can all do to help change the food system?
LB: It is critical that we begin to look at the policies, cultural norms and lack of information and education that hinder women’s success.