NYC Summit Addresses One of the Food Industry's Most Urgent Issues: Waste
"1 out of 7 people in America are food insecure, but 40% of food is wasted," Questlove said on Wednesday morning. "That is alarming.”
It is alarming. The Roots musician and food influencer was speaking on a panel at the Food Tank summit in New York that narrowed in on the growing problem of food waste, one of the biggest barriers to an equitable, sustainable food ecosystem. Gathering chefs, writers, and prominent food industry figures, the summit hosted a series of panels on how to minimize food waste in restaurants, grocery stores, and breweries, a complicated mission that has captivated grassroots organizers and big corporations alike. The theme for this year's summit was "Focusing on Food Loss and Food Waste," with speakers including Dan Barber, J.J. Johnson, Questlove, Marion Nestle, and more.
The day kicked off with a fireside chat between Blue Hill's Barber and Danielle Nierenberg, the president of Food Tank. Barber, a vocal advocate for sustainability, founded Row 7 earlier this year to offer consumers specialized, flavorful, and good-for-the-earth seeds. (Barber's new breed of squash will make its mass-market debut at Sweetgreen locations later this fall.)
"GMOs don’t make me hungry," he said. "If a company could produce a genetically modified seed that was really delicious, maybe we could talk. But they don’t.”
Barber insisted there needs to be a broader shift from "quantity" to "quality" when it comes to seed breeding, a strategy that would cut down on waste and overproduction. This will also make food taste better.
"Regional adaptability of seeds is so key," he said. "There is the climate issue but there is also a cultural issue. Why should a carrot in the Hudson Valley taste the same in South Carolina? It’s only been the last 50 years that this is the case.”
Brodo's Marco Canora suggested an overhaul of the whole system, which privileges food items that last on shelves, but do not nourish bodies.
“We have a system that supports shelf stability because it is safe but it is not nourishing," he said on a panel. "We need to build a system that supports nourishment and real food.”
The entire event was livestreamed on Facebook.
Food Tank is a nonprofit that aims to address the issues of hunger, obesity, and climate change, among others, by advocating for more research and investment in sustainable agriculture.