At the Second Annual NYC Food Tank Summit on Food Loss and Food Waste, Food Tank President Danielle Nierenberg sits down with Marion Nestle, New York University professor and author of books about food politics, to discuss what all eaters can do to influence change in our food system.
Nestle’s forthcoming book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat, releasing October 30, 2018, investigates the food industry’s influence on nutrition research and practice. As a food systems and food politics expert, she shares that she often receives proposals from food industry corporations saying, “We are looking for research to demonstrate the benefits of our products,” but never, “We are looking to understand how our product affects people.”
Nestle views food policy issues through the lens of public health, which means focusing on root cause. The root cause of food waste, Nestle says, is overproduction. “Our food system is designed to be wasteful. Our food policies are set up to get food producers to produce as much food as they can … The total pressure is cheap food … We are not paying the externalized costs.”
When asked how all eaters can influence policy, “The first thing is you have got to vote with your dollar. The second thing is you have got to vote with your vote,” Nestle says, adding that people should run for office, get involved with politics, and sit on school boards. “If enough people are there working for change, things will happen.”
When it comes to activism to spark food system change, “Start local,” says Nestle.
Talking to city council members and local representatives can have great impact. On going to visit with a representative’s staff in person, Marion advises, “You must talk to them about legislation because that is what they do. You have to have an idea for legislation for them.”
“If you go visit a Representative’s staff with 5 or 10 people, they will sit and listen,” Nestle continues. “I am told by every single legislator that this is very impressive.”
In the front row of the audience, Community Liaison for New York State Assembly Member Nily Rozic in the 25th District asks Nestle what ideas she would suggest to state and local legislators who are interested in proposing legislative solutions. Nestle suggests legislation improving the New York City public transportation system, because the transportation system has a lot to do with food access. There is also a lot of room for legislation on school food issues, or legislation supporting regional food hubs so farmers in upstate New York get more easily get their food to market.
Watch the full fireside chat with Marion Nestle, above.