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I’m on my way from Anaheim, California—where I attended the Natural Products Expo, or Expo West—to Austin Texas, where Food Tank will be active at South by Southwest. It’s a busy week for us!
Throughout the years I’ve been attending Expo West, I’ve noticed an interesting trend. The event highlights companies and new products focusing on organics, regenerative practices, plant-based ingredients, and the like. And there’s been a marked increase, over the past few years, in companies proclaiming the ways their products are good for the planet.
To this I say: Great! But words printed on food packages aren’t enough. We have to hold them accountable to meeting realistic climate goals.
At Expo West, I was able to moderate a couple discussions with business leaders thinking about these important questions. One panel focused on how to boost consumer adoption of climate-centered innovations (a mouthful!), and another centered around innovative retail models to improve food access.
I’ve talked before about greenwishing—when businesses appear to take sustainability seriously by making commitments that are, in actual fact, insufficient or completely wishful. Whether we like it or not, our current global food system is organized around big companies, and we can’t simply ignore them. Just as Food Tank does with our Chief Sustainability Officer network, we have to invite food business leaders to the table to showcase the achievable—and very much urgent—goals they should prioritize.
At Expo West, we were able to highlight the companies putting climate impacts at the forefront; brainstorm ways to help consumers better understand environmental, climate, and social impacts of the foods they’re eating; spotlight best practices for socially and environmentally sustainable food procurement; and show large companies how to give smaller entrepreneurs a leg up so they can really show off their world-changing ideas.
This weekend, at SXSW, we’ll be able to highlight food system transformation through a different lens: the arts.
I’m particularly excited for the films and series Food Tank is featuring. We’re showing “Wild Hope: Coffee for Water,” about coffee farmers in Mozambique. A film I’ve mentioned before, “Food 2050,” is created by Media RED and The Rockefeller Foundation to highlight food system visionaries. And “Hope in the Water” is an amazing docu-series from our friends at Fed by Blue, focusing on marine food systems—and afterward, I’ll chat with blue foods expert Jen Bushman, celebrity chef and advocate Andrew Zimmern, and Asif Khan from Picture Motion.
We’ll also be highlighting food policy victories like the Food Donation Improvement Act in an official SXSW panel with chef and advocate Tom Colicchio, Nyeti Shah from WeightWatchers, and Lisa Barden from Keep Austin Fed.
And on Sunday, March 12, is our “All Things Food” Summit, co-hosted with Huston-Tillotson University and Driscoll’s, and you’re invited for FREE! You don’t have to be in Austin to join—we’ll be streaming all day at FoodTank.com.
We’ll be having conversations on Indigenous foodways. How chicken and egg production are changing to be more sustainable. The future of meat and protein. Rethinking urban food systems. A fireside chat with Congressman Earl Blumenauer from Oregon. Mark your calendars to join us at FoodTank.com!
We’re also incredibly excited for the debut at SXSW of Food Tank’s original theatrical production “Little Peasants,” which I talked to you about in last week’s newsletter. The play showcases how workers of a fictional coffee chain called “Mermaid Coffee” are treated during union organizing campaigns. In addition to the performance, we’re convening a panel discussion to highlight how working families are truly at the center of the growing food movement.
The food labor movement that’s gaining power right now is so, so important toward the goal of keeping businesses accountable to people and the planet.
Even though I’m dead tired, weeks like this remind me why talking to people is so important. I know it sounds corny, but it’s genuinely how changes are made: One conversation at a time.
And I want to make sure I’m representing your voice, too, as Food Tank showcases the good food movement. So let’s chat about what you want to see from food businesses, food arts organizations, food procurers, food consumers. Email me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing your voice!
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Photo courtesy of Rob Maxwell, Unsplash