Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Eric Kessler, the Founder and Senior Managing Director of Arabella Advisors, who will be speaking at the summit.
Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?
Eric Kessler (EK): I’m inspired by opportunity. The public’s understanding of the food system and demand for good food is growing at a rapid rate. Additionally, there has been a significant increase in dollars and interest among Arabella clients to support a good food system. That creates an unprecedented opportunity for impact.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
EK: Taking a comprehensive view of all of the policies that affect our food, those that need to be created, eliminated, or reformed are the biggest opportunity to transform our food system.
FT: What innovations in agriculture and the food system are you most excited about?
EK: The number and reach of market-based approaches to creating a good food system that are being started and scaled is a huge reason for optimism.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero that inspired you?
EK: Michel Nischan. I met Michel when he and I both sat on the James Beard Foundation (JBF) board together. He had been helping the foundation engage on food system change for many years. His unique credibility as a chef, advocate, and expert in the field made so much possible at JBF. I joined the board and have since carried the torch. Michel inspired me to start the Chef Boot Camp program at JBF. Together, we co-founded the Chef Action Network. That he would leave his restaurant at the top of his game to dedicate 100 percent of his time to advocacy and food system change inspired me to leave most of my broad responsibilities at Arabella, the philanthropy consulting company I founded, and dedicate my time wholly to our work in food system change.
FT: What drives you every day to fight for the bettering of our food system?
EK: I am driven by a very real sense that change is possible. My team at Arabella, as well as the organizations I support and the food businesses I invest in, have a critical role in enabling that change.
FT: What’s the biggest problem within the food system our parents and grandparents didn’t have to deal with?
EK: Political inertia.
FT: What’s the first, most pressing issue you’d like to see solved within the food system?
EK: I don’t think about singular issues. As a system, the issues are interconnected. Thus, they need to be worked on in a comprehensive way.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
EK: Make sure their political representatives know that a good food system is important to them.
FT: What’s one issue within the food system you’d like to see completely solved for the next generation?
EK: Eliminating policy barriers that are preventing good food supply chain businesses from realizing their potential.
FT: What agricultural issue would you like for the next president of the United States to immediately address?
EK: See Arabella’s list of 12 Good Food Policy Priorities.
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