Matt Tortora, Co-Founder & CEO at Crave Food Services Corporation, 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.
After 10 years in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear missile technician, Matt made a career change to pursue his passion for food. In 2014, while completing his second degree at Johnson & Wales University, he founded a food systems technology and consulting company called Crave Food Services (CFS).
CFS is a team of farmers, chefs, food system specialists, and tech developers committed to food system change through a combination of consulting, collaboration, and technology. Matt built a cloud-based platform, WhatsGood, to connect schools, hospitals, restaurants, and other purchasers to nearby farmers, fisherman, aggregators, and specialty food producers.
Food Tank had the chance to speak with Matt 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?
Mat Tortora (MT): My lust and love for GOOD food.
FT: What makes you continue to want to be involved in this kind of work?
MT: In a daily sense, I love my job. I love working together with farmers and chefs every day. Big picture: My belief that everyone should have the right to have access to good, fresh, nutritionally dense food.
FT: Who inspired you as a kid?
MT: My grandfather—his courage and discipline to make a decision to do what he felt was right, despite the challenges he knew would follow.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
MT: I don’t necessarily think the food system needs to be fixed—I think it needs to be refocused. It’s not broken, it actually works the way it’s been built to. Unfortunately, it was built regardless of efficiency and waste. The opportunity has always been there, I think, since it lies with the power of choice. The ability to enable better choices is ultimately through education which is supported by science and fact. We can empower more people to make better, more informed decisions, and increase the amount of people who spend their food dollars based on: where their food comes from, what’s in it, what’s not, the nutritional density, how old it is, and most importantly, whether or not it tastes good.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero who inspired you?
MT: Chef Ann Cooper. I’ve only known her for about a month, but during a recent visit to Colorado, we spent some time chatting about her past, specifically, work she was doing in the Farm-to-School arena over 30 years ago. Prior to our meeting I had begun feeling more and more pessimistic about the progress my team and I have been witnessing in the farm-to-school movement, and the realignment our food system needed to undergo in order to support it. For more than three years we have been working to enable and empower schools to improve the quality of food we are serving to our children. Sometimes, it felt like we were just shoveling sand against the tide. Over a few beers, this unbelievably capable little lady, with a heart of gold and vision well beyond her years, taught me of a perspective I hadn’t considered. She spoke of a time when NO ONE cared about the quality of food in our schools. In some cases completely alone and definitely a pioneer. The perspective I gained inspired me to say the least—to not only motor on, but to truly appreciate how lucky we are as a society and community that there have been “Do-ers” like Chef Ann who never gave up, remained focused, and selflessly committed to solving a real problem, simply based on her belief that she was doing what is right. I will look forward to offering my perspective one day—and will keep the faith that there will be a determined ear to listen and learn.
FT: What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?
MT: Regulations—labeling, packaging, transparency of information.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
MT: Choose food based on being able to identify where it’s coming from and what’s in it.
FT: What advice can you give to President Trump and the U.S. Congress on food and agriculture?
MT: Use science to reform the outdated nutritional guidelines, regulations, and policies. Focus on a mission to empower those that need access to better food and supporting the people willing to grow/harvest it. Most importantly, refuse to allow the large companies who control most of our food system to continue making the rules.
Click here to purchase tickets to Food Tank’s inaugural Boston Summit.