Mailee Walker, Executive Director of the Claneil Foundation, will be speaking at the Washington D.C. Food Tank Summit, “Cultivating the Next Generation of Young Food Leaders,” which will be held in partnership with the George Washington University, the World Resources Institute, the National Farmers Union, Future Farmers of America, and the National Young Farmers Coalition on February 28, 2018.
Walker earned a B.A. in urban studies from Stanford University and an M.B.A. from the Wharton Graduate School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Previously, Walker was vice president, communications, and program officer of the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation. She served as Executive Director of the Stanford Medical Youth Science Program and project coordinator for the Neighborhood Improvement Initiative in East Palo Alto, California. Walker currently serves as Executive Director of the Claneil Foundation, a private foundation that seeks to improve community health through advancements in human services, sustainability, education, and environment. Walker also serves as a committee member of the Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders and is a founding member of the Philanthropy Network’s diversity, equity, and inclusion committee.
Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Mailee about her work, her role in grant programing at the Claneil Foundation, and her vision to get more young people involved in the food system.
Food Tank (FT): What originally inspired you to get involved in your work?
Mailee Walker (MW): I became the executive director of the Claneil Foundation ten years ago. The foundation prioritizes food security and when I started, I did not have a lot of experience or knowledge of the issue. However, my work with food security has transformed me personally and professionally since I started.
FT: How are you helping to build a better food system?
MW: At the Claneil Foundation, we are helping to build a better food system through our grant programs in four main ways. First, we make multi-year general operating grants in the Philadelphia area to organizations that connect food, health, and environment. Second, our Foundation made a five-year commitment to support efforts in the New England and Mid Atlantic Region that focus on food waste solutions. Third, we support early stage organizations focused on important issues like the food system. Last, we provide operating grant funding for past grantees that are wrestling with complex issues in areas of the food system.
FT: What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?
MW: I would like to see more alignment within the various food system efforts so that we can truly be a considered a movement to be reckoned with. Increased collaboration between food system advocates would allow for a host of diverse, yet complimentary voices to build upon each other.
FT: What innovations in food and agriculture are you most excited about?
MW: There are many exciting innovations in the food waste space. The work to bring together different voices through initiatives like the Heal Food Alliance is very exciting because it helps break down silos that exist within food system work.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
MW: If we realize the power that our small actions make–whether it be what we buy, where we give, or how we treat each other–we can make a big difference. I believe that these actions are the threads that keep our society connected and together.
FT: What is the best opportunity for young or aspiring farmers and entrepreneurs to get a foothold in America’s agricultural future?
MW: Young or aspiring farmers and entrepreneurs should definitely get involved in National Young Farmers Coalition. There are also great organizations like Urban Farming Institute, Soul Fire Farm, and Farm School NYC that opportunities for people interested in farming and the food system.
FT: How can we best stimulate young people’s curiosity about food and agriculture and encourage their participation in building healthier food systems?
MW: I think that young people should understand the ideas, resources, and privileges they have access to and use them to change on personal, community, and systemic levels.
The D.C. Food Tank Summit is SOLD OUT but tickets remain for our next two Summits. Register HERE for the Seattle Food Tank Summit, Growing Food Policy on March 17. Register HERE for the Boston Food Tank Summit, Exploring the Paradox of Hunger and Obesity on April 19. These events will sell out – register today!