On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Karen Karp, President of Karen Karp and Partners (KPP), talks about how her consulting company works with diverse groups—from the grassroots to the big corporations—to improve the food system. Karen’s history with local food and farming in Long Island inspired her to found KPP and focus on three main areas: regional food economies, food access, and sustainability.
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Karren tells Food Tank about what ties her work together. “To me the thread between all of them is economic.” For example, KPP revives regional economies by “reinvested in that regional economy and getting producers and food companies in these regional economies to be more profitable or to have opportunities to grow or start”. Similarly, Karen shares that it is not enough to just get food to vulnerable populations. “The ultimate goal is improving the economic well being of low-income people.”
Karen does not only engage with grassroots stakeholders to enact food system change but also with big corporations. She believes that working with companies like PepsiCo to become more sustainable or do more to support healthy food access can have huge impacts. “My perspective is that it takes all scales of actors in the agriculture and food system to create the sorts of change that we need to have,” says Karen.
Karen also shares her philosophy on what is needed to have a successful career in food systems work. A lot of young people come to her trying to get into consulting right after finishing college, but she tells them that first they need to get hands-on experience, whether on a farm, in a restaurant, or somewhere else. “Touching food, touching the connection between food and people,” is what is truly important to Karen.