Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?
Sam Fromartz (SF): In a word, memory. Food played an important role in my family and was informed by my parents’ heritage in Japanese and Russian Jewish cultures. So my entry into food and agriculture came came with a multicultural perspective, which I think has kept my interests wide. Plus, I enjoy hanging out with farmers, cooks, and food policy wonks.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
SF: Engagement. I mean, everyone eats, and many people have health issues stemming from diet. After covering this area for more than two decades, I’m still surprised how a very narrow but powerful interest group sets the agenda, defines the problem, and offers the solutions. It’s food and ag of and by the 1 percent. Engagement would change that.
FT: What innovations in agriculture and the food system are you most excited about?
SF: I think the growth of small, passionate producers is potentially disruptive, fueled by consumer interest in wider food choices. That will cause large food companies to respond, which they already have to a degree.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero that inspired you?
SF: As a journalist, I was probably most inspired by Michael Pollan’s writing. His story on corn in The Omnivore’s Dilemma blew me away. His talent is scary but inspiring. I’ll mention one other: Charles Mann, whose book 1491 has incredible breadth. He widens the lens and then widens it again; the vast scope of his work as a journalist is inspiring.
FT: What drives you every day to fight for the bettering of our food system?
SF: I’m a story teller, so what drives me is curiosity. I’m always trying to learn more, seeking to find the people behind the stories who are often the unsung heroes.
FT: What’s the biggest problem within the food system our parents and grandparents didn’t have to deal with?
SF: The rise of processed food, as well as food marketing and the ubiquity of sugar.
FT: What’s the first, most pressing issue you’d like to see solved within the food system?
SF: Inequitable access to good food. Fruits and vegetables should not cost more than empty calories and that has everything to do with policy decisions.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
SF: Meatless Mondays, championed by the late Ralph Loglisci, a tireless food advocate. It was a simple and effective means of raising the consciousness about the footprint of meat production, and I say this as a meat lover.
FT: What’s one issue within the food system you’d like to see completely solved for the next generation?
SF: Access to healthy food. Healthy food should not be a luxury. It should be a right.
FT: What agricultural issue would you like for the next president of the United States to immediately address?
SF: Agricultural pollution, which not only effects the environment, but also drinking water. Dealing with this one issue will also address a host of others, from soil depletion to overuse of agro-chemicals to relations between farms and cities.
Join the discussion using #FoodTank across Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!