From March 18-21 experts will discuss ways to change food and agriculture systems for the better as part of The Future of Food @ SXSW. The event, which is part of this year’s virtual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, is presented by The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, with organizing assistance from Little Herds, an Austin-based non-profit focused on the role of insect-based foods in sustainable food systems.
“Our goal for the Future of Food event at SXSW is to unite a variety of inspiring, engaging speakers around our shared vision to create communities free of hunger and waste,” Sunny Reelhorn Parr, Executive Director of The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation tells Food Tank, “and to unearth important, action-oriented conversations about the food system.”
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and severe winter storms in Texas have added a fresh sense of urgency to the event. “We saw boots on the ground – our neighbors, friends, and communities – really have a food deficit quickly because of lack of planning, a lack of knowing that this could happen beyond just the homeless or people who are poor,” Que Fagan, Digital Media Manager for Little Herds and owner of Curvalish LLC, tells Food Tank.
Robert Nathan Allen (RNA), Founder of Little Herds, adds, “With this event, we want everyone to be able to be a part of this conversation – [food insecurity] can happen to anyone. We’re all part of the problem, we’re all part of the solution.”
Speakers will include Temple Grandin from Colorado State University, Dana Gunders of ReFED, musician Moby, and more. Panels will cover topics related to agtech, entrepreneurship, alternative proteins, food and nutrition security, and preventing food waste.
Joi Chevalier, Founder of The Cook’s Nook, is looking forward to helping brands explore ways to directly stem the tide of food insecurity and become better connected. “I want to tie in the issues of food insecurity and sustainability,” she tells Food Tank. “They don’t exist without one another. Sustainability leads to food security and the other way around.”
Organizers are hopeful that bringing the event online will make it accessible to a broad audience and expand conversations while remaining engaging. “It’s free and accessible to any and everyone with something as simple as an smartphone,” Fagan tells Food Tank, “And I think that’s really powerful because that means that the message is going to be able to be shared, be talked about, and be partnered with in a much more powerful way than it would through the typical in-person event.”
In addition to viewing talks and participating on social media, event goers will also be able to engage with Austin-based startup food companies and restaurants through the Future of Food Box, which is available by pre-order. People in the Austin area can also sign up for the Future of Food Family Meal, which includes a roasted chicken fed a sustainable diet of insects, and seaweed that supports sustainable aquaculture models among lobster fishermen in Maine.
A percentage of sales from both the box and family meal will go toward food access initiatives in Austin through Little Herds, Good Work Austin, Austin Area Urban League, El Buen Samaritano, and others.
Parr believes that the event offers a unique opportunity for participants to connect across many sectors, including technology, sustainability, and the arts. “SXSW is full of innovators, thinkers and entrepreneurs who have dedicated their time and energy to finding solutions that examine and ultimately improve how the world works,” Parr tells Food Tank, “and I can’t wait to hear the diverse perspectives and learn more about the myriad ways this creative community is reimagining the future to life, and specifically food.”