Jocelyn C. Zuckerman is a freelance writer and current fellow with the Washington, D.C.-based Alicia Patterson Foundation. She will be speaking at the inaugural New York City Food Tank Summit, “Focusing on Food Loss and Food 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.
Zuckerman graduated with honors from Columbia University’s journalism school and is a former Peace Corps volunteer. Her stories about agriculture, the environment, and the developing world have appeared in Audubon, Fast Company, The American Prospect, The New York Times Magazine, and she is currently working on a book about the global palm oil industry. Also a contributing editor at Modern Farmer and Condé Nast Traveler, Zuckerman was the longtime deputy editor of Gourmet and has also served as executive editor of Modern Farmer and Whole Living and articles editor of OnEarth.
Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Zuckerman about what drives her work and how she succeeds in engaging consumers to fight for a better food system.
Food Tank (FT): What originally inspired you to get involved in your work?
The two years I spent as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Kenya left a lasting impression on me, in terms of opening my eyes both to global economic disparity and to the realities of the farming life.
FT: What makes you continue to want to be involved in this kind of work?
I don’t think there’s a more important topic than the health of the planet. And increasingly, the battles being fought for environmental justice are happening in the developing world, pitting indigent, often indigenous, communities against powerful multinational companies. There’s a lot here that needs to be exposed.
FT: Who inspired you as a kid?
Roald Dahl, because he told great stories, and the Man with the Yellow Hat, because he got to hang with a monkey all day.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
Getting the word out about the dangers and inequities of the current one, and engaging consumers in the fight to demand better—not just for our own health, but for that of the world’s producers.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero who inspired you?
A few years ago, I spent time with a Kenyan woman named Mary Njenga. She works in one of the biggest slums in Nairobi, helping people to grow vegetables on very limited land. Njenga earned a Ph.D. (in management of agro-systems and environment)—a pretty impressive accomplishment for a female Kenyan growing up in an impoverished rural family. In addition to her work with urban farmers, she’s engaged in a massive, painstaking effort to develop an inexpensive, clean source of cooking energy for the developing world.
FT: What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?
That is a toss-up between our over-reliance on chemicals/the degradation of our soils and the massive amount of food that gets wasted. Both have enormous implications for the future of the planet.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
Avoiding food waste and if you have excess, composting the stuff you toss.
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.