The goal of the summit is to gather experts that will brainstorm how to face, “climate change and the issues linked to food supply in an increasingly populated world with progressively scarce resources."
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Obama warned that as farm yields decrease in response to unstable, unpredictable seasonal changes, spikes in food prices could increase, eventually leading to political instability.
He praised the Paris Agreement in particular, in which global leaders agreed to make sure that the temperature increases due to global warming stayed well below 2 degrees Celsius – an agreement President Trump is now threatening to back out of.
“In Paris… we helped to lead the world to the first significant global agreement for a low-carbon future," he said.
Sam Kass, former White House chef, joined Obama at the conference. The pair discussed a wide range of food-related topics, including how to integrate new technology into farming practices, and getting more people access to fresh food, which will, in turn, reduce food waste. He also tackled how excess food packaging – like plastic wrappers – contributes to food waste.
“Food is also a 'social glue',” he quipped at one point, while discussing how to attract people to healthier food options.
The former president has long been a champion for environmentally sustainable food production practices. He 2009, he founded Feed the Future, a food security initiative that has helped about 18 million children gain access to better nutrition and provided millions more farmers with technologically advanced tools. Meanwhile, Michelle Obama strongly advocated for the Healthy-Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, which aimed to improve nutritional standards in school lunches. In early May, the Trump administration rolled back the restrictions her initiative helped put in place.
This was one of Obama’s few public appearances since he’s left office, which surely means that food policy and climate change are of paramount importance to him. And with an administration developing a reputation as hostile toward science it doesn't like, Obama's is a welcome voice in the ongoing debate over the effects of climate change.