Corby Kummer, Senior Editor at The Atlantic, is speaking at the inaugural Boston Food Tank Summit, “Investing in Discovery,” which will be held in collaboration with Tufts University and Oxfam America on April 1, 2017.
Corby is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards and has long contributed to articles on food and food policy for The Atlantic. He has spent time as restaurant critic of New York, Boston, and Atlanta Magazines and food and food policy columnist for The New Republic. He also authored the first book in English on the Slow Food movement, The Joy of Coffee and The Pleasures of Slow Food.
Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Corby about his work, inspiration, and thoughts on the future of the food system.
Food Tank (FT): What originally inspired you to get involved in your work?
Corby Kummer (CK): I was inspired by the people who make food, from home cooks, restaurant chefs, to workers in a shelter, their dedication, warmth, and need to share their passion with others originally inspired me to get involved.
FT: What makes you continue to want to be involved in this kind of work?
CK: There is a huge need to help people create healthier and more affordable diets. I want to help people achieve higher dietary standards and enjoy it while they are doing it.
FT: Who inspired you as a kid?
CK: I grew up watching Julia Child and Marcella Hazan, who were great cooking teachers. I was also lucky enough to have enthusiastic cooks in my daily life through my uncle and my mother. It inspired me to see the importance of food to my parent’s social circle and my family. Gathering over meals encouraged real communication.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
CK: We need to help people become more aware of the nutritional value in their food. We need to become more sensitive to the working conditions for the people with grow, pick, and prepare their food. That awareness touches all income levels. We need to create a food system that makes healthy food available to those across economic conditions. The biggest challenge is to make people realize that healthy food and good food can go hand-in-hand.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero who inspired you?
CK: I am a founding board member of an organization called Community Servings. It is a group in Boston that delivers meals for people who are critically ill. When people cannot afford to feed themselves and their families, Community Servings steps in. Workers come in to help prepare meals, some commuting an hour on a bus or a subway, knowing that they are cooking for people who are worse off than they are. That continues to inspire me every day. They realize the people we serve are like their relatives and knowing they are making a difference in those people’s lives every day, and the good humor and the matter of fact cheerfulness they do it with every day, those people inspire me.
FT: What is the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you would like to see solved?
CK: The food environment needs to change to one that helps people make healthful choices. People don’t make irrational or poor food choices on their own. They take what is easiest, cheapest, and most time saving for them while wanting to do right by themselves and their families. It’s the food environment that makes them have way too much sugar and too much sodium. The big challenge is changing those default options and helping people eat better by food policy choices made not by just government but by big industrial makers, and that’s the challenge I want to see solved.
FT: What is one small change everyone can make in their daily lives to make a difference?
CK: Finding out the name of somebody in the kitchen, who made their food, and asking them how they like their lives.
FT: What advice would you give to President Trump and the U.S. Congress on food and agriculture?
CK: Give farmers, big and small, the incentive to grow and distribute fresh fruits and vegetables, not just important non-food commodities, give them profit incentives, while respecting their need to survive and help ease the food distribution system to get fresh food to people in more places.
Click here to purchase tickets to Food Tank’s inaugural Boston Summit.