During an event co-hosted by Food Tank and the Danone Institute North America, panelists discuss ways to nourish people and the planet, while also dismantling systemic racism and inequity.
The discussion is part of Danone’s One Planet. One Health. initiative, which funds actionable, community-based projects across the United States and Canada. This year, the initiative will award up to five transdisciplinary teams whose projects help build sustainable food systems. Each team will receive a $30,000 grant to help design, implement, and evaluate their projects.
During the first session of the webinar, “One Planet,” Food Tank president Dani Nierenberg speaks with A-dae Romero-Briones (Cochiti/Kiowa) — the Director of Programs, Native Agriculture and Food Systems at the First Nations Development Institute — and Jose Oliva — the Campaigns Director at the HEAL Food Alliance.
Romero-Briones says the commodification of land, water, plants, and people has caused the connections between human and environmental health to be ignored. “When you measure things in individual units,” she says, “these relationships are then severed in ways that continue to play out in how people think about the system. And, in turn, the system is a cycle.”
“It’s not just about individuals,” Romero-Briones says, “It’s not just about our own health and our own pantry and our own table. We have to think in terms of community: what does your community look like, what kind of community are you part of? If you’re not part of one, find one. Because the only way we’re going to change the American food system, is to recognize that it’s not dependent on individual market behaviors — it’s dependent on community empathy, responsibility, and response.”
Oliva also emphasizes the power of collective action. “If we’re going to actually have a world that’s going to be sustainable and caring — that’s going to actually go across many generations — we have to make sure we have policies that correspond to that vision of the world.”
He points to passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and Raise the Wage Act, as well as amending the Fair Labor Standards Act and National Labor Relations Act to include agricultural workers.
Oliva says it’s critical that frontline and BIPOC workers are at the center of the decision-making process. “I think we have to look at the frontline communities — that being the folks who are most directly impacted by the ill effects of the food system — as the ones who should and do have the solutions for the problems in the food system.”
In the following session, “One Health,” Dariush Mozaffarian — dean of the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy — and Tambra Raye Stevenson — the CEO and founder of I AM WANDA (Women Advancing Nutrition, Dietetics, and Agriculture) — discuss the need for comprehensive and inclusive nutrition policies.
“Everybody is working in their own silos trying to fix things, but not in a coordinated way,” says Mozaffarian. “There is no food and nutrition coordinated agency in the U.S. government.” He notes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has traditionally been focused on increasing agricultural production.
Mozaffarian points to a report he co-authored with Former U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, and Former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration David Kessler — “Strengthening national nutrition research: rationale and options for a new coordinated federal research effort and authority.”
“The last time the federal government took a coordinated look at nutrition was in 1969 at the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health,” Mozaffarian says. The report he co-authored calls for a second White House conference and a new leadership position in the U.S. government, in charge of food and nutrition policy.
Stevenson talks about how BIPOC women have been particularly siloed when it comes to nutrition policy. “We have every day, women and girls who are leading households, leading farms, leading their communities, that I call the hidden figures in the food system. Their work must be amplified and elevated.”
“Equity is the heart of this conversation, when we look at the structural issues that build a broken food system to begin with — how do we now dismantle or recreate a new food system with the planet and people in mind?”
In the final panel, Nierenberg is joined by Leslie Lytle — President of Danone Institute North America — who explains how the One Planet. One Health. grant program aims to elevate community actors working towards more socially and environmentally sustainable food systems.
“To try to solve complex problems in communities and not engage communities, is not going to work,” says Lytle. “Working in our disciplinary silos of nutrition, agriculture, economy, sociology — that has not worked either.”
She explains that One Planet. One Health. hopes to instigate change by “taking advantage of the passion of local people in their communities and helping them become the thought leaders and the innovators.”
Nierenberg is also joined by N. Diane Moss, the CEO of Project New Village in San Diego which, alongside San Diego State University and UC San Diego, was awarded the grant in 2019 for their initiative: “Bringing Gardening into the Good Food District: Increasing Gardeners’ Capacity through a Regenerative Community of Practice.”
Moss says the grant was integral to expanding the reach of her organization. “It allowed us an opportunity to bring to centerfold the importance of the person — the grower,” she says. “Then it gave us training on how to get the message out to others.”
“We can be our own source of self-determining resources in the community,” Moss says. “Not just what people think you should have, or what they allocate to you, but your own voice based on your own experience. So we act as a catalyst for that type of spirit — always focusing on the solutions: what we can do.
Details on how to apply for the One Planet. One Health. Innovation Award can be found on Danone Institute North America’s website. Applications are due June 6, 2021.
Watch or listen to the full conversation below.
Photo courtesy of Phúc Long, Unsplash