On Food Talk, musician, food advocate, and author Questlove joins Haile Thomas, founder of the nonprofit HAPPY to chat with Danielle Nierenberg at the Second Annual New York Food Tank Summit. They talk about each of their motivations for being advocates for more equal and just food system. For Questlove, his call to action was after bringing leftover food to people experiencing homelessness, realizing the extent of food waste and hunger in the United States. “I’ve been in several situations in which I realized that we’re a country that pretty much wastes 40 percent of our food and a nation in which one out of seven people are starving. That was disturbing,” says Questlove, a Celebrity Ambassador for Food Bank For New York City, member of the City Harvest Food Council, and a board member of Edible Schoolyard.
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For Thomas, food and nutrition advocacy was her response to the inadequate, one-toned nutrition education she received growing up; at the HAPPY Organization, Thomas brings innovative nutrition and culinary programs to young people in their schools, homes, and communities to help them understand nutrition and food waste in more personal ways. “The way that we try to approach these issues with nutrition and with food waste is through fun and really engaging activities,” says Thomas. These activities include competitions to create a meal out of miscellaneous wasted ingredients given to them. “It’s really just all about them perceiving food and ingredients that would normally be thrown away as a canvas to create a new dish or explore a different cuisine,” says Thomas.
Questlove also notes that racism in the food system—in marketing and grocery store placement—makes it harder for certain communities to make healthy choices. “It’s not by accident that the cheapest and most unsustainable foods are surrounding [certain communities] and the foods that should be benefiting you, like the foods from the earth, are more expensive and don’t seem at all appealing to [these communities],” says Questlove.
“Unfortunately, everything is about race. Racism is imbued in the fabric of this country,” adds Thomas. “In a way, the food movement—and while its changing—is very similar to a monoculture. It has a lot of people who look the same, think the same, and have the same proclivities… we need to include these communities, that we often talk about, by actually having them in the conversation.”