Eillie Anzilotti, the assistant editor for Fast Company’s Ideas section, is speaking at the inaugural New York City Food Tank Summit, “Focusing on Food Loss and Waste,” which will be held in partnership with Rethink Food Waste Through Economics and Data (ReFED) and with support from The Rockefeller Foundation and The Fink Family Foundation on September 13, 2017.
Previously a writer for CityLab, Anzilotti focuses on sustainability, social good, alternative economies, and solutions for pressing issues like climate change, mass incarceration, and access to quality food.
Food Tank had the opportunity to talk with Anzilotti about the issues that drive her passion for writing about sustainability.
Food Tank (FT): What originally inspired you to get involved in your work?
Eillie Anzilotti (EA): I had a rather circuitous path to covering sustainability and social impact—my first job in journalism was at Glamour magazine, where I quickly realized I wanted to write about issues that effected humankind on a more fundamental level. I spent some time covering urbanism for CityLab, where I became fascinated by the link between our personal actions and lives and the larger fabric of our cities, and by extension, the world. Food systems are perhaps one of the clearest ways to understand this link.
FT: What makes you continue to want to be involved in this kind of work?
EA: It’s impossible to read the news on any given day and think that there’s nothing that we’re doing wrong; that there’s nothing we can and should improve. I focus, in my writing, on tangible, implementable solutions to very real and wide-ranging problems, in the hope that should enough of them gain traction, we’ll begin to make a difference.
FT: Who inspired you as a kid?
EA: I had a bit of an unusual childhood—I was raised without a TV, so my main heroes were mostly found in books and history. My heroes ran the gamut from Jo March in Little Women to Jane Goodall, who I met when I was 10 and completely drove home the idea that one person’s patience and perseverance can lead to great insights.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
EA: For the sake of scale, I’d like to focus on the urban setting. If you drive around a place like New York, you see parts of the city where fancy restaurants are throwing out excess food by the barrel, and you see other parts of the city where the only source of nutrition is a Popeyes. There’s a problem here. We need to first find a way to redistribute these resources—get more good, healthy food to the areas that need it—but we also need to come up with a better system by which to track the amount of food actually needed, and ensure that only that is delivered, as opposed to requesting more than is necessary, as we’ve become accustomed to doing.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero who inspired you?
EA: When I was reporting for CityLab, I had the good fortune to meet and write about the photographer Joey O’Loughlin. Her series, Hidden In Plain Sight, depicts lines for food pantries around New York City, and proves the incredibly salient point that we as a society are trained to ignore or unsee things that are difficult or outside our known experience. If we open our eyes more and actually see what is around us—what other people experience in their day-to-day lives—we can begin to see more clearly what system we actually exist within, and what role we might be able to play in changing it.
FT: What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?
EA: The overproduction of livestock is, I believe, the most pressing modern food issue. We rely entirely too much on meat when it’s both healthier and more sustainable to switch to a more plant-based diet. I’d like to see a way for us to move beyond factory farming and the idea that meat is necessary to life, and to begin to rehabilitate some of the acres and acres of land devoted to the livestock industry for plant cultivation.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
EA: Think more about what you need, and limit your intake and purchasing to just that. Also, eat less meat. If we all did that, we’d begin to see change.
The NYC Food Tank Summit is now Sold Out. Register HERE to watch the livestream on Facebook. A few tickets remain for the Summit Dinner at Blue Hill Restaurant with a special menu from Chef Dan Barber. Apply to attend HERE. If you live in New York City, join us on September 14 for our FREE outdoor dance workout led by Broadway performers called Garjana featuring many great speakers raising awareness about food waste issues. Register HERE.