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What Happens When Alice Waters Jumps On Your Zoom Call to Talk School Food Procurement

Fri, 02/03/2023 - 06:56

A version of this piece was featured in Food Tank’s newsletter, released weekly on Thursdays. To make sure it lands straight in your inbox and to be among the first to receive it, subscribe now by clicking here.

Recently, I received a text. And it was a good one.

It was from Alice Waters.

She and I know each other, but I still get starstruck talking to my culinary heroines. At her restaurant Chez Panisse, she was instrumental in bringing the names and faces of California agriculture to the table. And now, with the Edible Schoolyard Project, she continues to boost the school gardens movement and food education.

She was part of an important generation of women like Julia Child and Cecilia Chiang who truly paved the way in what was—and remains, to some degree—a male-dominated fine dining restaurant landscape.

This week, Food Tank members had a special opportunity to chat with Alice Waters at our virtual member meeting. We’ll be having more of these unique members-only conversations with other food luminaries like Alice, so I hope you’ll join Food Tank so you can connect with us.

Here’s why I’m bringing this up: Something Alice so many of us are very passionate about is where our food comes from, especially in schools. How schools procure food shapes how they literally and metaphorically nourish the next generation.

This is a major driving force behind Chez Panisse, and it also motivates the Edible Schoolyard Project. Having gardens in schools helps kids and teachers learn in different ways—not only to better understand subjects like math, chemistry, and social studies, but also to grasp that food doesn’t just come from a grocery store.

As far as school gardens go, we’ve lost our way over the past 100 years: In 1906, according to the USDA, there were roughly 75,000 school gardens in the U.S. As of 2019, just over 12,000 schools have gardens. Growing our own food, I think, gives people of all ages a better appreciation and respect for how difficult but also enriching the process is.

“When we support the people who grow the food for the schools, it’s the biggest gift that we can give the next generation,” she told us during the conversation.

And even if we aren’t able to start gardens, supporting schools and other institutions that are taking food procurement seriously is a big deal. Through better procurement practices, Alice told us, we can empower farmers, support the land, and address the climate crisis.

Sadly, in many budget-strapped schools, nutrition and local sourcing often fall by the wayside. In 2021, the USDA measured nine criteria for school food procurement. Cost was #1—the highest priority consideration—and nutrition was #9. Many schools said they wanted to support local producers, but few had concrete plans in place to do so, and even fewer could actually afford it.

But this is starting to change. During Covid-19, we’ve seen that farm-to-school programs are vital lifelines for small producers, and policymakers are paying attention. In New York State, for example, legislators introduced a bill that would make New York the first state to implement a values-based approach to food purchasing. Food Tank has been covering the legislation HERE.

True change in school food procurement takes both advocacy, Alice Waters told Food Tank members this week, and also “cheerleading from the federal government, from the state governments.” It’s imperative to make sure good food policies are ingrained and enshrined in our local, state, and federal laws.

And alongside those efforts, institutions like schools don’t have to wait to make change. Local school boards can embrace food and gardening programs, like the curricula created by the Edible Schoolyard Project. The Alice Waters Institute for Edible Education also recently partnered with the University of California, Davis, to create a training center for K-12 educators and a research hub for regenerative ag leaders.

Because every little bit of education helps. Here in the U.S., our students receive about 8 hours of nutrition education a year, according to the CDC. That’s shamefully low, and too small to really be effective—you’d need between 40–50 hours to bring about behavioral change.

So I hope you’ll reach out not only to your local elected legislators but also to school boards and business leaders to encourage them to take food procurement seriously. And I hope, too, that you’ll join Food Tank HERE so you can connect directly with food luminaries like Alice Waters at our exclusive member meetings.

More from our chat with Alice is on this week’s episode of our podcast, Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg, so I hope you’ll listen HERE, and email me as always at with your thoughts and questions.

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture

The post What Happens When Alice Waters Jumps On Your Zoom Call to Talk School Food Procurement appeared first on Food Tank.

Categories: A3. Agroecology

Driving the Food Movement Forward One Edible Garden at a Time

Thu, 02/02/2023 - 09:43

More than 25 years since the Edible Schoolyard Project was founded, the nonprofit organization continues to deepen relationships between young people and their communities and the food they eat. 

In 1995 chef Alice Waters launched the Edible Schoolyard Project, which uses school gardens, kitchens, and cafeterias to teach students about the values of food, nature, and community. Waters started the project with a single middle school in Berkeley, California, supported by a coalition of educators, families, farmers, cooks, and artists. Together, they worked with students to create a garden and kitchen classroom. 

Since the founding of the first Edible Schoolyard, the nonprofit has established thousands of gardens across the country. In these spaces, young people have the chance to deepen their relationship with food and develop new skills. “The foods that the kids cook really empowers them,” Waters tells Food Tank. “And they are changed by it.”

Each garden takes shape in a different way, but Waters believes that it doesn’t matter whether students are growing their food in an urban or rural setting, in pots or in the ground. “Really, you need to know it can be done,” she says. “Seeing is believing and we have only been seeing disaster right now. War and disaster. And we need to see people feeling empowered and growing their own food.”

Involving young people is only one piece of Waters’ vision. She believes that transformation of the world’s food and agriculture systems requires participation from everyone. “We need to learn about what it is to live in a democracy,” Waters tells Food Tank. “And a democracy means that everybody has something to contribute.”

Listen to the full conversation with Alice Waters on “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” to hear more about the power of eating in community, why the design of everything from gardens to kitchens matters, why Waters says that supporting farmers who grow food for schools is “the biggest gift that we can give the next generation.”

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Kemper, Unsplash

The post Driving the Food Movement Forward One Edible Garden at a Time appeared first on Food Tank.

Categories: A3. Agroecology

Food Tank’s Winter 2023 Reading List

Mon, 01/30/2023 - 07:21

Food Tank is rounding up 20 books to help everyone deepen their understanding of food systems. Cookbooks like Toya Boudy’s Cooking for the Culture and Jerry Mai’s Vietnam: Morning to Midnight include recipes to stimulate reader’s awareness around food and identity. Fresh Banana Leaves by Jessica Hernandez reveals the power of Indigenous knowledge systems in rebuilding a more sustainable and just global food system. And Costing the Earth calls for an overhaul of the world’s approach to finance to save the planet. By highlighting stories of struggle, channels for hope, and frameworks for change, these 20 books will captivate readers and ignite collective action toward a better future for everyone.

1. Becoming Kin: An Indigenous Call to Unforgetting the Past and Reimagining Our Future by Patty Krawec

Becoming Kin details how going backwards to Indigenous ways of knowing may guide readers to reimagine a different future in which the land is relative, not a resource. Entwining stories of her ancestors alongside her own, Anishinaabe writer Patty Krawec helps readers understand settler colonialism through the eyes of an Indigenous writer. Becoming Kin encourages readers to reflect on their own identity and education as they forge a new relationship between humans and the environment.

2. The Climate Optimist Handbook by Anne Therese Gennari

The Climate Optimist Handbook enters the world at a critical moment. Anne Therese Gennari guides readers to shift perspective on the climate crisis so that they can act from a place of optimism and hope, rather than one of fear. Taking readers on a journey of empowered awareness, this handbook calls all readers to recognize that the future is truly up to us. With the courage to act, humanity has much to win.

3. Cooking for the Culture by Toya Boudy

Cooking for the Culture celebrates New Orleans food and its Black culture through the words of Toya Boudy, a born and raised local chef. This cookbook gives readers the inside scoop on Boudy’s original television competition recipes, from Sweet Cream Farina at the crack of dawn to Jambalaya and Red Gravy for dinner. Weaving traditional dishes from home into personal stories from her childhood, Boudy’s cookbook highlights the ways in which food and identity intertwine.

4. Costing the Earth by Eric Archambeau

In Costing the Earth, Eric Archambeau argues that in order to save the planet, world leaders must radically overhaul finance. Archambeau supports his claim with stories from his own career path, including venture capital in Silicon Valley and climate focused work in agriculture. Costing the Earth is both timely and relevant, calling for the corporate sector to go beyond media friendly pledges to advance impact goals on the same basis as profitability goals.

5. Crushed: How a Changing Climate is Altering the Way We Drink by Brian Freedman

Crushed invites readers on a trip through the world of wine and spirits, sharing the stories of growers and producers from eight key regions that are being affected by the climate crisis. Amid stories from fires in California’s wine country and hailstorms in Bordeaux, Brian Freedman intertwines tales of success as producers adapt to meet the ever-changing climate. Crushed is for everyone who fancies a nice dram of wine or whiskey, giving readers the opportunity to understand the evolution of their beloved beverages from ground to glass.

6. Farm: The Making of a Climate Activist by Nicola Harvey

In Farm, Nicola Harvey explores the complex arguments surrounding food and climate change that are too often rendered as black and white. Harvey shares the excitement and hardships of her personal transition from an inner-city lifestyle to a cattle farm in rural New Zealand. Farm spotlights the challenges of new farmers confronting the status quo of the industrialized food system, while also just trying to survive.

7. Food System Transformations: Social Movements, Local Economies, Collaborative Networks Edited by Cordula Kropp, Irene Antoni-Komar, and Colin Sage

Food System Transformations examines the role of local food movements in devising solutions to global food issues. Drawing on fieldwork from across the world, this research provides a fresh perspective on the role of grassroots initiatives in building more sustainable and socially just food production systems. Food System Transformations represents a ‘second generation’ movement, imagining a world in which local autonomy directly contributes to healthy nutrition worldwide.

8. Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Science by Jessica Hernandez

Although Indigenous communities are among the most affected by the climate crisis, their scientific knowledge systems remain largely ignored in mainstream environmental discourse. In Fresh Banana Leaves, Jessica Hernandez challenges this narrative, breaking down why western conservation isn’t working. As she introduces and contextualizes Indigenous knowledge systems, Hernandez reveals how humans can save the world through processes that heal and regenerate rather than displace and destroy.

9. From the Ground Up: Local Efforts to Create Resilient Cities by Alison Sant

From the Ground Up shows the unique ways cities in the United States are working to mitigate and adapt to climate change while building equitable communities. Harnessing urban-experimentation and community-based development, expert Alison Sant reveals how to raise the bar in communities from places of survival to places where everyone can thrive.

10. The Fulton Fish Market: A History by Jonathan H. Rees

The Fulton Fish Market by Jonathan Rees explores the evolution of Manhattan’s Fulton Fish Market – one of the largest fish markets in the United States. This historical analysis vividly illustrates how politics, rapid development and overfishing led to the market’s steady decline in the 1920s. Yet Rees’ thoughtful research speaks far beyond the fishing industry, giving insight into how clashes between the natural and built worlds have long shaped American cities.

11. The Future of Food is Female by Jennifer Stojkovic

Three years after founding Vegan Women Summit (VWS), a platform empowering women to build a kinder, more sustainable world, Jennifer Stojkovic brings readers The Future of Food is Female. By spotlighting female leaders, innovators, and changemakers in the plant-based food space, this book paves the way for a reinvented food system which might have the potential to save the planet.

12. Guaraná: How Brazil Embraced the World’s Most Caffeine-Rich Plant by Seth Garfield

In this detailed analysis of Guaraná, Seth Garfield explores the plant’s journey from Brazil’s origin history to its place as the namesake ingredient of a multibillion-dollar soft drink industry. As an emblem of Brazil itself, Guaraná illuminates human impacts upon Amazonian ecosystems and the circulation of knowledge, goods, and power in Latin America’s largest nation.

13. Our Fermented Lives: A History of How Fermented Foods have Shaped Cultures and Communities by Julia Skinner

Alongside the rapid rise of craft beer, kombucha, sourdough and cheese, fermentation has taken flight as a popular topic in both food and health spheres. In Our Fermented Lives, Julia Skinner investigates the fascinating roots of this distinct flavor profile. As Skinner dives into the intersections between fermented foods with human history and culture, she reveals how fermentation has become a powerful instrument in bringing communities together.

14. Quinoa: Food Politics and Agrarian Life in the Andean Highlands by Linda J. Seligmann

Quinoa explores the untold story behind the superfood that has surged in popularity worldwide. In this book, Lisa Seligmann travels to the Huanoquite region of Peru to examine how the growing demand for Quinoa has altered the lives of Quechua farmers in the Andean highlands. As Seligmann researches the transformation of a traditional, minor crop into one of the world’s most exquisite grains, she illuminates broader themes of how Indigenous communities have engaged with global food politics.

15. Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate (Expanded and Updated 2nd Edition) by Laura Lengnick

This expanded edition of Resilient Agriculture invites readers to look beyond the desperation of climate crisis headlines to shine light upon various agricultural climate solutions. As Laura Lengnick shares stories of adaptation, she calls attention to the power of resilience thinking in regenerating the well-being of people, the land, and the communities. Whether readers work in the farm and food industry or are simply curious eaters, Resilient Agriculture provides a hopeful perspective for everyone as the world confronts the challenges ahead.

16. Salmon Wars: The Dark Underbelly of our Favorite Fish by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins

Salmon Wars takes readers on a deep dive into the murky waters of the industrial salmon farming industry. By revealing conditions inside hatcheries, investigative journalists Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins document how this industry endangers human health and the environment. Yet through highlighting the stories from big fish farmers and fly-fishing activists, Salmon Wars may serve as a springboard for a more transparent and sustainable fishing industry.

17. Transforming Food Systems Under Climate Change Through Innovation Edited by Bruce Campbell, Phillip Thornton, Ana Maria Loboguerrero, Dhanush Dinesh, and Andreea Nowak

Transforming Food Systems Under Climate Change Through Innovation tells readers the story of why food system transformation is essential, and how research can be a catalyst in spearheading that change. Written by a team of researchers from across the globe, this book unites a multitude of perspectives to develop strategies that can be used to approach the future of the food system.

18. Vietnam: Morning to Midnight by Jerry Mai (Forthcoming February 28, 2023)

Join chef and author Jerry Mai as she shares the iconic dishes and street foods that have been long enjoyed throughout Vietnam. From beef pho and banh mi at sunrise to a communal feast of savory snacks and beer at sunset, Vietnam: Morning to Midnight invites readers to experience a day in the life of Vietnamese cuisine from their own kitchens all around the world.

19. A Waiter in Paris: Adventures in the Dark Heart of the City by Edward Chisholm

A Waiter in Paris paints an evocative picture of the realities of a waiter’s job. Edward Chisholm’s memoir underlines the contrast between the luxurious experience of fine dining and the far less glamorous world on the other side of the kitchen door. Chisholm’s recollection of his time as a server in Paris illustrates the conflicted experiences of restaurant workers pursuing their dreams as they balance the physical and emotional demands of the fine dining industry.

20. We Have Fed You All a Thousand Years by Kevin Bruce

Written by a food worker and for food workers, We Have Fed You All a Thousand Years presents a unique perspective on the lives of New York City’s food handlers between 1912 and 1937. From strikes to industrial organizing, and from cafeteria servers to food delivery drivers, Kevin Bruce sheds light on the forgotten history of worker organizing in New York City’s hotels and restaurants.

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

The post Food Tank’s Winter 2023 Reading List appeared first on Food Tank.

Categories: A3. Agroecology

FDA Aims to ‘Improve Diet, Reduce Chronic Disease’ by Updating Healthy Claims on Food Labels

Sun, 01/29/2023 - 00:00

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is updating the use of the term healthy on food labels for the first time since 1994. These changes attempt to align the agency’s definition of healthy with the latest nutrition science and federal dietary guidelines.

The word healthy, like the phrases low fat or good source of calcium, is an implied nutrient content claim, meaning it suggests that “a nutrient or an ingredient is absent or present in a certain amount,” according to the Code of Federal Regulations. When consumers see the term healthy on food packaging, they can assume the product supports federal dietary recommendations, as noted in the current rule.

If companies want to use the healthy claim, the product must abide by specific thresholds of total and saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and contain nutrients like Vitamin A, calcium, or iron.

Uses of the label can be helpful for food products whose nutritional value is not as clear as, raw fruits and vegetables, according to Cydnee Bence, Attorney and Adjunct Professor at Vermont Law and Graduate School. “Where the term healthy does a lot of lifting is on foods that people may not just inherently trust are going to be healthy,” she tells Food Tank.

Under the current regulations, certain foods deemed healthy by the government’s own recommendations are not allowed to bear the word healthy on packaging. The FDA observes that salmon and olive oil, two examples of nutrient dense choices in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines, 2020-2025, are considered too high in total fat to be eligible for the healthy claim. Meanwhile, cereals, snacks, and other processed foods high in added sugar, yet low in fat and fortified with certain nutrients, may carry the claim.

“I could fill a whole cart with foods exclusively labeled as healthy and still not have a truly healthy complete diet,” Bence says.

The new proposed rules will address this issue by regulating healthy claims primarily according to food groups, as opposed to individual nutrients. Food products will need to contain a specific amount of food from at least one of six categories: fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, proteins, and oils. The FDA also plans to continue limiting nutrients including sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars, with baseline amounts varying by food group. Additionally, the agency would remove minimum micronutrient requirements, preventing the labeling of unhealthy foods as healthy simply for containing a large amount of a single nutrient like calcium.

Through these changes the FDA acknowledges that “nutrients are not consumed in isolation” but rather in a broader “dietary pattern.” A dietary pattern refers to the food and beverages people regularly consume and the synergistic effects of those choices. According to the FDA, prioritizing a variety of food groups, rather than specific nutrients, is indicative of better health.

This shift toward food groups “more accurately reflects how consumers view their own food choices,” Bence tells Food Tank. But she has concerns that these new rules may allow too many “borderline foods” to be labeled healthy. Defining foods according to this food group criteria “expands that gray zone where there’s genuine conflicts within the nutritional space,” she says. For instance, dairy products are the subject of much debate by nutrition professionals and may or may not deserve the halo of the healthy claim.

These modified standards come shortly after the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, which outlined the need for addressing high rates of diet-related disease in the United States. According to the FDA, more than 630,000 Americans die from heart disease and 600,000 die from cancer each year, while around 34 percent of adults have pre-diabetes. In light of these dietary and disease trends, the FDA recognizes the need to convey clear and accurate information on labels.

“If I’m going through the store, I spend about two seconds making a decision on what I’m going to buy,” Bence tells Food Tank. “[If] I see the term healthy…I’m just going to assume this is good for me,” she says, speaking to consumers’ reliance on labels to make informed choices.

However, the healthy claim is “not an endorsement by the government” and the FDA cannot ensure that “any individual consumer’s idea of healthy is going to align with what’s in these regulations,” Bence points out. “Healthy at the end of the day is still a marketing term.”

While the proposed rules may not address all the “inherent challenges with implied nutrient claims,” the existing framework is still “well overdue for an update,” Bence says. “Ultimately I think this is a move forward.”

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of Ella Olsson, Unsplash

The post FDA Aims to ‘Improve Diet, Reduce Chronic Disease’ by Updating Healthy Claims on Food Labels appeared first on Food Tank.

Categories: A3. Agroecology

Black-led Food Co-ops Restore Justice, Hope, and Power

Sat, 01/28/2023 - 00:00

The United States has seen the opening of more than 167 food cooperatives since 2006, according to the Food Co-op Initiative (FCI). Within this movement, Black-led co-ops are tackling food access and racial justice, which can help to fulfill a community’s needs while addressing systemic inequalities to restore power to the people.

Community members themselves own, manage, and govern food co-ops. “They’re about the collective buying power, the collective political power, and especially the collective people power,” says Jasmine Ratliff, Co-Executive Director of the National Black Food and Justice Alliance (NBFJA).

Largely due to historic, systemic disparities in economic resources, Black communities often experience barriers to food sovereignty. Ratliff describes food sovereignty as the right for people to define their own food and agriculture systems, and this is inherently bound up with racial injustice.

Racialized land disenfranchisement is one obstacle to participating in the food system. “We think back into the 1920s when there were nearly 1 million Black farmers in the United States, and now we’re less than one percent of farmers,” Ratliff says.

While the Black community experiences limited control within the food system as producers, ripple effects are felt by consumers who face a lack of food access. A study by the Center of American Progress reports that for over two decades, Black households have been twice as likely to experience food insecurity than white households. In 2020, 21.7 percent of Black households and 7.1 percent of white households experienced food insecurity.

Racial inequalities within land and food access that hinder food sovereignty are built into the mainstream food system. “The conditions which led to a lack of access to food are connected to larger issues,” Darnell Adams, Consultant and Leadership Coach at Firebrand Cooperative, tells Food Tank.

These inextricably linked problems gave rise to Gem City Market in Dayton, Ohio. The market sits on the city’s West side, which has experienced extensive redlining and historical disinvestment, according to Amaha Sellassie, Board President of Gem City Market. Dayton is also a highly segregated city, with African Americans constituting 98 percent of the West side.

Sellassie describes Gem City Market as a “survival mechanism” for people. “We had 40,000 residents and no full-service grocery store,” he tells Food Tank.

A year and a half after its opening, Gem City Market now provides access to fresh produce for Dayton’s West side. The co-op also creates meaningful jobs. “It’s seen as a strategy for community development in a community capacity,” Sellassie says.

Black communities have experienced similar situations of disenfranchisement across the U.S. and, as in Dayton, co-ops have opened to address historical inequities in the food system.

In West Oakland, California, Jeneba Kilgore, Worker-Owner at Mandela Grocery Cooperative, describes extremely limited options for communities to purchase food. “A lot of the neighborhoods in West Oakland had 20 to 30 liquor stores and an assortment of fast-food restaurants but no full-size grocery stores,” Kilgore says. The Mandela Grocery Cooperative opened in 2009 and was the first grocery store on its street since the 1960s.

Co-operative models also present opportunities to return agency to community members. Adams explains that Black people are sometimes viewed only as consumers in the food system. “But we don’t talk about Black people also as producers of food,” she tells Food Tank.

Mark Winston Griffith, Vice Chair of the Central Brooklyn Food Coop (CBFC) Board of Directors, says the co-op dismantles the idea that food is “something that needs to be given to us, but really, as an expression and an assertion of our own power, our own genius, our own creativity, our ability to do for ourselves—to build institutions that are going to sustain us and literally feed us,” he says.

Through a co-op model, Black people become owners and take on management roles. “The process of building a co-op turned us into co-creators or protagonists in our own story,” Sellassie says.

Adams also sees value in the framework that food co-ops provide for communities. “I do think that the reason why it is so attractive is, in some ways, it is very flexible.” Gem City Market, for example, responds to the changing needs of the community by offering variety. From generic to name brands, co-op consumers can choose what best fulfills their financial needs.

“The thing about the cooperative model is that it does allow you to address what your community needs.” Adams tells Food Tank.

Co-ops have served Black communities in the U.S. for generations, as Jessica Gordon Nemhard details in her book Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice. During slavery, the Black community often pooled economic resources to pay for burials, illnesses and treatments, and even freedom. And following the Civil War, the Colored Farmers’ National Alliance and Co-operative Union was established when the Southern Farmers’ Alliance excluded Black farmers.

In the present day, 167 co-ops have opened across the U.S. since 2006, FCI reports. Among these are the Black-led co-ops, like Gem City Market, Mandela Grocery Cooperative, and the CBFC. “We’re kind of pioneering a new way,” Sellassie tells Food Tank. More are slated to open soon, including the Detroit People’s Food Co-op, Fertile Ground in Raleigh, and the SoLA Food Co-op in Los Angeles.

“Time and time again people keep coming back to this model,” Adams tells Food Tank.

Adams anticipates momentum growing around the movement as more people are exposed to the possibilities of co-ops as alternative economic models. “I think because there are more Black co-ops organizing, there’s more evidence that Black people can organize food co-ops,” she says.

While Black-led co-ops are certainly making an impact within their communities, “the story remains to be told in a larger context,” Adams tells Food Tank.

“Black co-ops are a way to build not only solidarity, but self-determination,” Sellassie tells Food Tank. “It’s building power.”

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of Scott Warman, Unsplash

The post Black-led Food Co-ops Restore Justice, Hope, and Power appeared first on Food Tank.

Categories: A3. Agroecology

Is Corporate Consolidation Leading to Higher Egg Prices?

Fri, 01/27/2023 - 14:16

The advocacy group Farm Action recently released an open letter calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate increasing egg prices. 

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the price of a dozen large grade A eggs has skyrocketed from US$1.788 in December of 2021 to US$4.250 one year later. Culling of poultry populations due to the outbreak of avian flu—which hit flocks particularly hard in the spring of 2022 and again in the fall—is partly to blame for the increase. 

But Farm Action alleges that price gouging and collusion are the main drivers. And at the heart of the problem, the organization argues, is the fact that power lies in the hands of a few industry actors.

While the egg sector is less consolidated than the pork and beef industries, Cal-Maine Foods controls 20 percent of the egg market in the United States. The top 10 largest companies are responsible for more than half of all egg production in the country. According to advocates at Farm Action, this power has allowed companies to engage in price coordination, price gouging, and other unfair practices, pushing egg prices higher. 

To read more about rising egg prices, avian flu, and corporate consolidation check out this Forbes op-ed.

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of Damon Lam, Unsplash

The post Is Corporate Consolidation Leading to Higher Egg Prices? appeared first on Food Tank.

Categories: A3. Agroecology

You Can’t Improve What You Don’t Measure: The Data Shaping U.S. Food Systems

Thu, 01/26/2023 - 08:42

The deadline to respond to the 2022 Census of Agriculture is approaching, but U.S. farmers and ranchers still have the opportunity to ensure their voices are heard and help shape future food and farming policy.

Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA NASS), the Census is a complete count of all the country’s farms, ranches, and the people who operate them. The deadline to respond is February 6, 2023.

Including farms of all sizes in rural and urban areas, the survey captures data on land use and ownership, production practices, and income. It also illuminates the changing demographics of farmers and ranchers, providing information on the number of women operators, the age of producers, the number of veterans working in agriculture, and more. 

“When legislators are drafting a farm bill or other legislation, they want to know: How many people will this affect? How many farms or ranches will this impact? And a Census of Agriculture provides them a great data set to use,” says Mark Schleusener, Illinois State Statistician for the NASS.

For young people pursuing or interested in careers in agriculture, the information from the Census can prove particularly important. The average age of U.S. producers was 57.5 years in 2017 when the survey was last conducted, up 1.2 years from 2012. 

“For young people, getting access to land and capital is very difficult, so we are tracking new and beginning farmers with the Census of Agriculture,” Schleusener says. “And another part of USDA, the Farm Service Agency is helping to provide…easier methods of getting a loan for someone who’s new.”

The Census of Agriculture also evolves to include new topics based on feedback they received following previous surveys. This year’s questionnaire, for example, includes new questions on internet access.

Schleusener explains that the USDA has prompted farmers to answer whether or not they have had an internet connection “for years.” But in the latest survey, they’re trying to gain a better understanding of whether producers rely on a cellular data plan, broadband, or satellite, and check all that apply.

“There are lots and lots of smart young people out in the rural areas, and if they had a good internet connection, they could have a really good job. And without that connection, maybe they can’t,” Schleusener tells Food Tank. “And in terms of the farm business, maybe it’s a little bit harder to purchase supplies or to market their commodities.”

The survey also includes new questions around hemp production, which has “recently become a USDA sponsored or endorsed crop,” Schleusener says, as well as precision agriculture and hair sheep. 

Over the next year, the NASS will sift through and analyze the results of their survey. “It takes us a while to be very careful with that data and examine all the outliers, double check things, maybe recontact people if we’re uncertain as to whether the data are correct,” Schleusener says.

The results of the Census will be publicly available by the spring of 2024. 

Listen to the full conversation with Mark Schleusener on “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” to hear about the USDA’s utilization of the 2017 Census of Agriculture to create tax breaks for producers engaging in agritourism, how the NASS ensures they are reaching all farmers and ranchers, and helping veterans transition into agriculture.

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of Heather Gill, Unsplash

The post You Can’t Improve What You Don’t Measure: The Data Shaping U.S. Food Systems appeared first on Food Tank.

Categories: A3. Agroecology

Can Corporate Accountability Drive Climate Action?

Sat, 01/21/2023 - 00:05

Bringing together more than 220 of the leading global businesses, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) works to accelerate change in the private sector to advance a net-zero, nature positive, and more equitable future.

Focusing on core issues ranging from food and agriculture to energy, WBCSD’s network includes companies such as Bayer, Apple, Google, IKEA, Nestle, Shell, and Unilever. While some members may see one another as competitors in daily business operations, WBCSD is designed to encourage cooperation to advance common sustainability goals. 

These members “recognize inherently that none of them can solve any of these issues on their own,” Diane Holdorf, Executive Vice President of WBCSD tells Food Tank. “And they can go faster if they can work on some of these solutions together.” 

Holdorf maintains that businesses are ready for change and understand that pushing toward sustainable practices can benefit them as well as people and the planet. These measures are “really a backbone to business resilience and sustainable performance,” Holdorf says. “That concept is simple.”

Holdorf notes that efforts to protect biodiversity or support food and nutrition security “helps with employee recruitment, employee retention, robust business performance, supplier security.” And as practices become more widespread “it normalizes the thinking around why this is important, why it’s strategic, and why we need to drive a priority around it.” 

But the “operationalization” of these changes is just as important—and still requires significant attention. “We need to have the types of metrics and targets and objectives that are recognizable within a business,” Holdorf tells Food Tank. “And that can then be placed across the value chain and worked through with suppliers as well.” 

That’s why WBCSD wants to help its members develop the tools, guidance, and aligned metrics to implement these changes within their individual companies and drive change at scale. 

Collectively, businesses can ask: “What’s the work? What are the deliverables? How are we going to shift these systems in ways that we can measure and demonstrate progress with?” Holdorf says. “It’s different in every sector, and that really is how we start to make the work move forward together.”

Listen to the full conversation with Diane Holdorf on “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” to hear about Holdorf’s thoughts on the risks of greenwashing in the private sector, why she believes there is an “inherent readiness” for companies to change, and the work of the Good Food Finance Network as they try to change investment practices to achieve climate goals.

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of Lou Liebau, Unsplash

The post Can Corporate Accountability Drive Climate Action? appeared first on Food Tank.

Categories: A3. Agroecology

Eating for Change: WWF and Partners Host Gatherings in Support of Food Systems Collaborations at UN Climate COP27, Egypt & Biodiversity COP15, Canada

Sat, 01/21/2023 - 00:00

For the first time, food and food systems are a prominent fixture in international discussions around climate change and biodiversity loss. But space for stakeholder collaboration and dialogue at is increasingly necessary to ensure goals set at UN conferences are met. What better place than around the dinner table?

Through a series of gatherings of global food systems visionaries in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt and Montreal, Canada, WWF and Eat4Change partners are bringing more people together in conversation to ensure food and food systems change remains at the center of UN conference discussions. Through specially curated evenings with randomized guest seating, these gatherings serve as a catalyst for dialogue among diverse global stakeholders and changemakers—a reminder for what effective change looks like as we consider the future of our food systems.

On November 15, 2022, nearly 200 country delegates, farmers, non-profit organizers, companies and youth activists from around the world concluded another day at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt and headed to the Eat4Change dinner at the Dreams Beach Resort hosted by WWF, The Global Alliance for the Future of Food, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Food and Land Use Coalition, and The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition. As the second week of COP27 began, it became clear the conference would not result in the aggressive goals necessary to achieve climate resiliency and arriving guests voiced their exhaustion and disappointment. The Eat4Change dinner proved the reinvigoration many needed.

To kick off the evening, moderators Danielle Nierenberg, Food Tank, and Brent Loken, WWF, set the scene for a celebration of food systems as a focus of COP programming. Sanjoo Malhotra, curator for the Eat4Change dinners and WWF manager of the Global Action Platform on Sustainable Consumption and Diets, explained the silo-breaking concept for the evening and introduced Egyptian Chef Montaser Masoud who had curated a sustainably-minded, plant-forward menu with locally grown ingredients inspired by Eat4Change’s sustainability principles.

During the dinner, guests enjoyed one of the first screenings of “Food 2050”, the Rockefeller and Media RED film that debuted at COP27, followed by a discussion with Roy Steiner of The Rockefeller Foundation. Visionaries and experts featured in the film were seated throughout the audience including Chief Caleen Sisk and Matte Wilson of the Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative, physician Rupa Marya, and producer Andrew York.

Following the film, Loken introduced WWF’s video, “The Great Food Puzzle” which highlights the impact of food systems issues on people and planet, and the importance of connecting local, national and global stakeholders. Guests then heard from Costa Rican Indigenous youth activist, Heylin Sanchez from the Kábata Könana Women’s Association who spoke of the importance of localized, place-based efforts and holistic concepts of food and life at the center of Indigenous worldviews. The evening concluded with dancing and continued discussion among guests including Indigenous farmers, non-profit organizations, small and large-scale companies, media groups and activists around their efforts towards change and goals for the future.

Momentum from the COP27 Eat4Change dinner in November carried over to the COP15 UN Biodiversity Conference held in Montreal in December, with the goal of reversing unprecedented nature loss by 2030 through the global biodiversity framework (GBF). Food again held a prominent place at the conference and was especially highlighted during “Food Day” a full day of side-events on December 14th.

COP15’s Food Day culminated in the fourth Eat4Change Dinner hosted by WWF in partnership with the FAIRR Initiative, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Global Alliance for the Future of Food, and the Environmental Defense Fund. Guests including national level stakeholders, non-state actors, civil society groups, youth, indigenous groups, business and finance stakeholders gathered under the Société des Arts Technologiques’ 3D dome at Montreal’s FoodLab for an immersive evening of conversation on the intersection of food and biodiversity loss.

Guests enjoyed a seasonal, locally-sourced dinner curated by FoodLab chefs Rocco Chouinard Gomes, Emilie Begin, John-James Fridman, and Emmaelle Guindon-Amyot in collaboration with First Nation Innu chef, Sylvestre Hervieux-Pinette. Dishes showcased Indigenous, foraged, waste-reducing and urban-produced foods including dune peppers, sweet clover, pholiota mushrooms, insect proteins, sunflower sprouts, mustard seed, wild blueberries, ethically-produced char and wild rice.

During the event, WWF’s Joao Campari and Société des Arts Technologiques Chairman, Sebastien Saint-Hilaire welcomed guests, and First Nations Elder Kanahsohon Deer performed a land acknowledgment. The evening was moderated by Brent Loken and included talks by Helena Wright, Lauren Baker, Jim Leape and Diane Holdorf. While guests dined, they enjoyed the 3D animated short film, Ecosysteme, from the BeBEST Franco-Quebec International Laboratory about the soundscape of the ocean depths and disturbances to marine ecologies.

These Eat4Change gatherings have served as an embodiment for food systems change, where real conversation happens between stakeholders at a shared table. Though reflections on COP27 were mixed, according to WWF, “there is no doubting that food was on the table” much more than at previous COPs. Some successes from both events were salient — more than 100 organizations are supporting an ambitious and holistic approach to the new UNFCCC Sharm El-Sheikh Joint Work on Implementation on Agriculture and Food Security, and COP15 resulted in a historic agreement to reverse nature loss by 2030, including through agroecological approaches and reducing food loss and waste—but much more collaborative work will be needed to implement these agreements. To achieve climate resiliency and a thriving natural world, food must remain on the agenda.

As we look to the next UN conference, COP28 hosted by the UAE in 2023, plans are in place for more spotlighting of food systems, more voices at the table, more collaborative efforts, and more honest conversations around the intersection of human and environmental rights. Food is set to be a permanent fixture at future UN conferences and gatherings like Eat4Change will play an important role in creating lasting connections between global stakeholders beyond the conference stage.

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

The post Eating for Change: WWF and Partners Host Gatherings in Support of Food Systems Collaborations at UN Climate COP27, Egypt & Biodiversity COP15, Canada appeared first on Food Tank.

Categories: A3. Agroecology

World Economic Forum’s Davos Conference Talks Food Systems

Fri, 01/20/2023 - 17:30

During the Davos 2023 Conference hosted by the World Economic Forum, speakers highlighted the need for investment in small-scale farmers, regenerative agriculture, and data technologies. The Conference brought together academics, governments, businesses, nonprofits, artists, advocacy organizations, and other parties to discuss pressing issues of the day, with food security and food systems discourse on the menu. 

“Farmers around the world (especially smallholder farmers) bear the burden of climate impacts and food insecurity but can’t bear the burden of making the transition alone,” Tania Strauss, Head of Food Systems Initiative at the World Economic Forum, stresses.

Alvaro Lario, President of the U.N. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) shares Strauss’ concern and underscores the importance of supporting rural agriculture. “Only long-term investments in rural economies can provide long-lasting solutions to hunger, under-nutrition and poverty,” Lario said in a statement ahead of the conference. “This is what will enable small-scale farmers to increase local production, better adapt to climate change, build short and local food chains, build and sustain local markets and commercial opportunities, and create small rural businesses.”

The speakers also call for urgent investment in rural food systems. According to IFAD, small-scale farmers feed two out of three people on the planet, yet they face the brunt of the climate crisis and a lack of financial support. Even taking into account worsening inflation, local and regional conflicts, and extreme weather events, farmers who make up the Global Majority produce 30 percent of food products on just 11 percent of total farmland, they report. 

IFAD Goodwill Ambassador Idris Elba also sounded the alarm for rural investment, stating “[Farmers] are not just looking for aid and handouts, they’re looking for investment.”

The speakers also promoted regenerative agricultural practices as another means to strengthen global food security. The transition away from conventional agriculture was a key component of conversations around achieving food security moving forward. In alignment with The Global Biodiversity Framework, Food Sustainability Director at Unilever Dorothy Shaver and Director of One Planet Business Stefania Avanzini calls for transformation of agricultural subsidies toward regenerative farming practices. 

“When properly implemented, regenerative agricultural practices can protect and enhance biodiversity at and around farms, improve or preserve carbon and water retention in the soil and enhance the resilience of crops and nature,” Shaver and Avanzini write in a memo. “Governments can support the transition to regenerative agriculture by reforming harmful agricultural subsidies and creating opportunities for an equitable, nature-positive and Net-Zero economy.”

In order to support both small-scale farmers and the regenerative agriculture transition, researchers encourage the integration of food and data systems. Agri-tech researchers at the World Economic Forum call for further attention to cleaner, more-streamlined data collection to support farmers as climate instability and market fluctuations continue to occur in the near future.

Julie Sweet, Chair and CEO of Accenture, points out the benefits of streamlining data across different cultural and climatic contexts: “In many cases people have been doubters about why you need to have really clean data connecting to external data, use these then foundational models on specific use cases—a lot is going to be in digital manufacturing, in agriculture, industrial use cases – and it reminds everyone you have to get the data right.”

The World Economic Forum sees three key solutions to world food insecurity: Financial investment in regenerative agriculture, robust policy to fire up market growth, and national leadership in transforming their food systems. “We must embrace complex and holistic solutions like climate change and food security together,” Strauss says. 

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of Vivek Kumar, Unsplash

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Categories: A3. Agroecology

Using Storytelling in Film to Re-Attach Ourselves to Our Food Systems

Fri, 01/20/2023 - 00:00

A version of this piece was featured in Food Tank’s newsletter, released weekly on Thursdays. To make sure it lands straight in your inbox and to be among the first to receive it, subscribe now by clicking here.

I’ve been in Abu Dhabi as a judge for the Food Tech Challenge, which brought together food entrepreneurs and innovators from all over the world to submit ideas about changing food systems in the UAE. It’s been very exciting to be on the ground in the UAE, because food and agriculture advocates here are preparing for the next U.N. climate conference, COP28, which will be in Dubai in November.

So many organizations and activists are working to build up momentum, and I can’t wait to see what we can do over the next few months to continue highlighting the role of food in solving the climate crisis.

And this weekend, I’ll be in Utah moderating three days of sold-out talks, screenings, and tastings taking place during the Sundance Film Festival. More details HERE. And as I prepare for the trip, I’ve been reflecting on storytelling, and how the stories we tell can have real impact in the world.

Those in power have massive influence over what stories get told and funded, A-dae Romero Briones of the First Nations Development Institute said last year at the SXSW festival. We’ve become “disattached from our stories, just like we’ve become disattached from our foods,” she said. And, she adds, “You have to listen to their story. Society has to do the work.”

Storytelling has long been integral to the mission of Food Tank. During the early days of COVID-19, for example, we focused on under-covered stories of frontline workers and food producers. On this week’s episode of our podcast, Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg, our executive producer Rob Pera made a great point: At the beginning of the pandemic, with how little we knew, it almost felt like we were doing a miniseries on a totally new topic—and then that became our world.

At our events during Sundance, Food Tank is focusing on blue food systems, which encompass aquaculture and aquatic plants, fisheries, ocean farming, and more. And we’re recognizing that maritime food production isn’t a miniseries or a side project but actually a central element of sustainable food systems.

More than 3 billion people around the world rely on blue foods for vital nutrients, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, and nearly half the blue food workforce is female. And it could help address our global hunger issues, too: The High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy predicts that more sustainable and responsible practices could help boost blue food production by six times. Many of us in the food movement—myself included, I’ll admit—have long focused primarily on terrestrial food systems, but we need to think holistically about how blue food systems fit into the stories we tell about regenerative transformation.

So in Utah, we’ll be helping share the story of blue food systems with a few films we’ve helped curate with Jen Bushman of Fed By Blue. We’ll see “SeaLegacy: A Sea of Hope,” a film by Emmy-nominated director and SeaLegacy founder Andy Mann that documents ocean life for the purpose of conservation. The film “Feeding Tomorrow,” by Oliver English and Simon English, explores the overwhelming choices we make every day about what we eat, and Matthieu Rytz’s “Deep Rising” follows the environmental consequences of deep-sea mining on all life on Earth.

And I want to shout out “Hope In The Water,” another film we’ll be showcasing. The docuseries is produced by award-winning producer and writer David E. Kelley and celebrity chef and advocate Andrew Zimmern, and it highlights the abundance of innovative opportunities to restore our world’s oceans while responsibly producing food. And we’ll also once again be able to share “Food 2050,” a film by The Rockefeller Foundation and Media RED that spotlights 10 global food visionaries.

These events are a really unique opportunity to share these stories with culturally influential folks who might not otherwise have these conversations about food system transformation, and I’m excited to be back. Here’s what I appreciate about these films, too: Seeing a documentary about food is a good first step, but actually doing something about it is entirely different—and these films help tell us the specific ways we can make an impact with the information we’re learning and the stories we’re hearing.

Tickets are sold out…but you’re a Food Tanker. So if you happen to be in Park City during Sundance, email our co-founder Bernie Pollack at, and we’d love for you to be our guests. I broke my foot recently—not a fun way to start the new year—but I hope to see you as I hobble around the festival!

As part of Food Tank’s strategic plans to meet the momentum of the food movement in 2023, we’ll continue using film and other cultural spaces to spark dialogue about the urgent changes we need to see in the food movement. What are some food-related films that inspire you—that call you to action? Share them with me at

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of Tadeu Jnr, Unsplash

The post Using Storytelling in Film to Re-Attach Ourselves to Our Food Systems appeared first on Food Tank.

Categories: A3. Agroecology

Looming Cuts to SNAP by New Congress

Thu, 01/19/2023 - 07:00

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Benefits are expected to decrease for millions of recipients as early as March due to cuts in the 2023 Omnibus spending bill. Anti-hunger advocates say the changes will accelerate the looming hunger cliff.

In 2020, following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress increased SNAP benefits through emergency allotments (EAs). These EAs, issued to households in addition to their normal monthly SNAP benefits, helped to address rising rates of food insecurity in the U.S.

While some states have already ended their EAs, more than half maintained the supplemental benefits into the new year. With cuts in the 2023 Omnibus spending bill, however, EAs for all SNAP recipients will come to an end, with February marking the last month that the EA benefits will be issued.

“It’s expected that the loss of EAs will cost about US$82 a SNAP participant a month,” Ellen Vollinger, SNAP Director for the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) tells Food Tank.

Older adults, who are typically part of smaller households and receive the minimum benefit level, will likely feel these cuts the hardest. FRAC estimates that they will see their allotments fall from US$281 to pre-pandemic levels, just US$23 per month.

Vollinger calls the cuts “premature,” pointing out that EAs were “designed to be for the duration of the pandemic health declaration.” And while the supplemental benefits are ending, the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary recently renewed the COVID-19 public health emergency, which gives the Biden-Harris administration the authority to respond to the pandemic.

This change is “coming at a time when we’re hearing, anecdotally, from emergency food providers around the country [about] how tough it is for them to keep up with the demand that they’re seeing, even toward the end of 2022,” Vollinger tells Food Tank. “There’s no way that this is not going to have a very negative impact on their purchasing power.”

For every one meal that food banks in Feeding America’s network provides, the nonprofit estimates that SNAP provides nine. And to understand the impact the cuts will have, anti-hunger advocates say they need only to look to states where EAs have already ended.

Propel, a financial services technology company that builds products for low-income Americans, designed a smartphone app for SNAP participants. The free tool allows electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card holders to check their EBT balance and transaction history. Propel can also use the platform to survey its users, which they began doing on a monthly basis at the onset of the pandemic.

According to Propel’s survey, 45 percent of users in 2022 were running low or were out of what they needed on a monthly basis. “This is a very high percentage of respondents and SNAP households,” Stacy Taylor, Head of Policy and Partnerships for Propel, tells Food Tank. But, Taylor continues, in states that ended their EAs early, the number jumps 7 points, with 52 percent of respondents reporting that they were running low or were out of basic necessities at the end of the month.

Congress argues that the elimination of SNAP boosts is necessary to enable investment in child nutrition programs. The Omnibus bill will establish a new, permanent, nationwide summer program that will give families of eligible children an additional US$40 per month per child for food. It will also grant providers of summer meals greater flexibility to make meal distribution easier and increase food access.

Vollinger, however, doesn’t believe in the trade-off. “For the families who are going to be affected, the math does not really work out for them,” she states. While FRAC supports summer food programs, she explains that the new benefits are “modest compared to the magnitude of dollars that we’re talking about here with the emergency allotments.”

State agencies are currently working with SNAP households to ensure they know that changes to monthly allotments are coming. Vollinger says it’s also important that recipients are aware of deductions—which vary depending on out of pocket costs for childcare, medical expenses, and other necessities—so they can receive the full benefits they are eligible for.

But “it’s only a dent,” Vollinger tells Food Tank. “None of these…are sufficient to fill this really enormous gap that’s coming. And that’s why we call it a hunger cliff.”

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of Victoriano Izquierd, Unsplash

The post Looming Cuts to SNAP by New Congress appeared first on Food Tank.

Categories: A3. Agroecology

Collective Action for Brazil’s Food Delivery Worker Rights

Wed, 01/18/2023 - 00:00

In Brazil, food delivery is growing 30 to 40 percent each year and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, according to Harvard Business School. But BBC News reports that a lack of recognition, protections, and bargaining power makes these delivery workers some of the most vulnerable to food insecurity.

Brazilian nongovernmental organization (NGO) finds that nearly 60 percent of the population is suffering from food insecurity. Those in food delivery are particularly hard-hit, with workers responsible for the costs of vehicles and gas on top of grocery bills, explains Gonzalo Martinez, the Brazil Country Program Director for the Solidarity Center.

The average worker in Brazil has representation through labor unions, says Martinez. But this is not the case for gig economy workers. Mainstream labor laws in Brazil do not cover gig workers, making bonuses and benefits like healthcare, meals, and transportation unavailable to them.

According to Martinez, food delivery companies argue that workers are not employees and are instead micro-entrepreneurs or individual contractors. “They really do verbal gymnastics to get around the fact that these are people who are putting on backpacks with their company logos and going out on the streets delivering food for them, sometimes for eight, 10, or 12 hours a day,” he tells Food Tank.

Without official employment status from app companies, gig workers don’t have a place at the bargaining table like other employees. “Generally speaking, they have fewer avenues for advocacy than the average worker,” Martinez says. “By far, the holy grail of policy advocacy in this space is for workers to be formally recognized as employees in the sector.”

To meet consumer and company demands, workers are risking their lives. In Brazil, traffic accidents are the second leading external cause of death, according to one study from the School of Medicine of Bahia. In the study, motorcycling was the occupation of half of victims of motorcycle accidents and approximately 50 percent of the study’s participants did not meet the requirements for a driver license. Gilberto (Gil) Almeida dos Santos, President of advocacy organization SindimotoSP, attributes many delivery workers’ traffic deaths to app companies hiring young, inexperienced workers on the spot.

iFood is one of Brazil’s largest online food delivery platforms involving 200,000 active couriers. It was the only app providing free accident insurance before January 2022, when a Brazilian law passed to entitle all app-based delivery workers to accident insurance.

SindimotoSP recently attended an event to celebrate another significant step in workers’ safety. In October, São Paolo authorized the use of blue studs as traffic devices to improve visualization of lanes designated for motorcyclists. Martinez says these lanes are proven to reduce injuries and deaths of delivery workers.

While accident insurance and traffic devices are certainly accomplishments in worker safety, delivery workers are still without a bargaining structure.

Instead, they look to collective action. “Many workers have come out to grassroots mobilizations that have taken place over the years,” says Martinez. Workers can coordinate logging out of the delivery app and walking off the job, which can force negotiations with companies for better working conditions.

But it’s not an easy process. “It’s a lot of legwork to get even just a fraction of the workers to log off,” Martinez tells Food Tank. He explains that most gig workers cannot afford to stall work for any extended period of time.

And even if enough workers participate in the walk-out, employers often leverage their power to avoid change. “Even when [workers] do get a mass stoppage, companies usually get to either ignore them for a little bit and then things go back to normal, or they make very, very marginal concessions and then watch the workers get right back to work under essentially the same conditions,” Martinez tells Food Tank.

Consumers can make informed purchases by educating themselves about the gig economy. Likely, they will have to do a little more digging, Martinez tells Food Tank. Most of what consumers pay for their food is not going to the restaurant they order from or to the worker who delivers it to their door. “It’s actually going to the app itself,” Martinez says. And depending on the app, the tips that consumers leave workers don’t fully make it to their pockets, if at all.

“We know that this is a social problem and to solve it we need the participation of entities, companies, society, and governments. Only in this way will we be able to offer decent conditions of safety, work, and mobility to these motorcyclists,” Almeida dos Santos says.

“They’re really asking to have the same rights that workers have in many other sectors of the economy,” says Martinez.

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of Szymon Fischer, Unsplash

The post Collective Action for Brazil’s Food Delivery Worker Rights appeared first on Food Tank.

Categories: A3. Agroecology

Facilitating Equitable Farmland Access

Mon, 01/16/2023 - 00:00

A recent National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) study finds that access to affordable land is the top barrier facing young farmers in the U.S., especially for Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Asian, and other farmers of color. Nationwide, individual and community-led efforts are working to expand farmland access and management to address systemic barriers.

Today, the average age of the U.S. farmer is 57.5 years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture 2017 Census of Agriculture. And young farmers across the board cite land access as a common barrier. The USDA reports that there are 321,261 agricultural producers under the age of 35; 96 percent are White, 0.75 percent are Black, 1.86 percent are American Indian or Alaska Native, 0.62 percent are Asian, 0.08 percent are Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and 1 percent are multi-race.

To expand land access to historically marginalized farmers, NYFC outlines a series of federal and local changes in their 2022 Young Farmer Agenda. These include improving outreach to young farmers and investing in community-led projects that center Indigenous farmers and farmers of color, preventing further land loss in communities of color, and ensuring that young farmers have access to credit so they can compete in the real estate market.

Young farmers and community-led organizations have already been working to address these recommendations. “Repairing our relationship with the soil and how we connect to food will heal a lot of the world’s problems,” Isa Jamira, a young farmer, activist, chef, and artist based in New York City tells Food Tank. Through acquiring land and building outdoor educational spaces that center Indigenous knowledge, Jamira’s mission is to empower people to take care of themselves and the Earth.

In 2022, she organized an urban Fireside Chat Series and Liberated Lands Garden Fest, bringing together farmers, herbalists, healers, musicians, and foragers from in and around New York City to “create an interactive space where people can have open dialogue about nature within nature.” She also acquired an acre of land and founded Liberated Lands Inc, which envisions a future where land stewards can access land and mutually share resources and knowledge “in harmony with the earth and all her systems of people.”

Transforming relationships and access to land is a common goal for young farmers and leaders; 29 percent of all young farmers— and 74 percent of Black farmers—report that anti-racism is central to their work, according to NYFC’s survey.

Presente! Maine, a Latinx and Indigenous-led nonprofit and farm based in Portland, ME, brings community members together to cultivate and care for the land, improve access to nutritious and traditional foods, facilitate connection to ancestral knowledge, and promote nutrition and health equity.

“The whole experience of [our] farm is not just about food security or growing food, but getting back to the dirt, connecting with our bodies, connecting with the soil, with the land, with ourselves, with each other,” Crystal Cron, Founder and Executive Director at Presente! tells Food Tank. Presente! organizes regular community gatherings, including an annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration, garlic planting sessions, and herbalism classes.

“The model that we use for holding land comes out of this really long lineage that actually started back in the Civil Rights movement,” Jesse Saffeir, Co-coordinator at Land in Common, tells Food Tank. Due to historical injustices and systemic barriers, “owning farmland for private property really isn’t viable for the majority of people who want to farm,” Saffeir says.

As part of Land in Common’s commitment to enacting land justice, they collaborate with organizations across Maine that are BIPOC-led [and] focus on land, environmental justice, and farming. This includes returning land to the Bomazeen Land Trust, an intertribal Wabanaki initiative to heal their lands and people. However, Cron points out that for their community, the work of land back “is a little more complicated, because we’re displaced and landless Indigenous peoples. And I think the Latinx or Hispanic identity often strips us [of] or invisibilizes our indigeneity.”

To expand farmland access and management, Cron tells Food Tank that it is critical to cultivate authentic relationships with communities of color and poor communities over time. “I think there is a lot more interest out there from communities of color who would want to have access to land and engage with [agriculture] organizations if they knew there were resources out there and [if] they could be supported in navigating these systems, but there’s something missing in the middle.”

NYFC is advocating for these changes on a national level, primarily through policy change in the 2023 Farm Bill. This includes ensuring that farmers “have clear paths to having their voices heard and lived experiences reflected in the policy language of the Bill, something historically missing from farm bill conversations of the past,” Alita Kelly, Land Organizing Director at NYFC, tells Food Tank.

Kelly adds that funding for these issues should be at the forefront of every federal policymakers’ priority list. “Our work is to show members of Congress that investing in secure, equitable land access for the next generation is not optional—it is foundational to addressing all the challenges the next generation of farmers faces and imperative to building a future with farmers.”

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of Isa Jamira

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Categories: A3. Agroecology

Study Finds Local Foods are the Key to Nutrition in Ethiopia

Sat, 01/14/2023 - 07:31

The United Nations estimates that 2.2 million children in Ethiopia are experiencing wasting, the deadliest form of malnutrition. By focusing on local assets, a recent study from the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development offers a more holistic approach to addressing nutrition deficiencies with locally available and inexpensive raw foods.

Infants and preschool-aged children in developing countries are particularly vulnerable to protein energy malnutrition (PEM) and micronutrient deficiencies, according to the study’s author, Adamu Belay, Food Science and Nutrition Research Directorate of the Ethiopian Public Health Institute. Despite improvements in chronic malnutrition in Ethiopia over the last 15 years, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) finds that 28 percent of child deaths are associated with undernutrition.

To combat nutrition deficiencies, humanitarian aid organizations often utilize strategies like ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), school feeding programs, supplementary doses of vitamin A, and nutrition education. But Belay argues that these projects create dependency on other countries, which is not sustainable long-term.

The study finds that combinations of local starches, proteins, and Moringa stenopetala leaves offer a more sustainable solution to child nutrition deficiencies than imported supplements. Containing vitamins A, B, and C, potassium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and protein, “M. stenopetala leaves are one of the nutritious plant foods available in Ethiopia,” Belay states in the study.

The study concludes that 5 percent M. stenopetala powder blended with soaked or roasted sorghum or maize, chickpea, and soybean are the best combinations to mitigate PEM and micronutrient deficiency for children aged six months to two years. Out of 14 trial formulations, two were selected for superior sensory evaluations and nutrient value, such as energy, protein, potassium, and fat contents.

Ted Greiner, Professor of Nutrition at Hanyang University in Seoul, South Korea, confirms the success of local options to address nutrition deficiency in Ethiopia. He says these alternatives work as well as imported, RUTF products.

RUTF does not require refrigeration, mixing with water, or training to administer, according to UNICEF. It also has a two-year shelf life and can reduce the costs of in-patient healthcare facilities, which makes this an appealing solution for children in need.

But the Geneva Association for Infant Nutrition (GIFA) argues that RUTFs have their drawbacks. GIFA argues they are too expensive to use for treatments besides severe acute malnutrition (SAM). And according to the International Network of Child Food Action Groups (IBFAN), 90 percent of malnutrition exists in forms besides SAM. In addition, IBFAN states that RUTFs are largely provided by short-term external funding from humanitarian or emergency programs and tend to be monopolized by manufacturers.

GIFA also worries that RUTFs do not educate or help children become accustomed to healthy, local foods to avoid malnutrition in the future.

Localizing food production can counter childhood PEM and support the local agricultural economy at the same time. Greiner tells Food Tank that projects promoting community gardening “can make a big difference and be sustainable.” More attention should be given to raising awareness and increasing the status of locally available foods, as well, he says.

In parts of Ethiopia, these localization efforts are underway. “The Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) encourages communities to use locally grown crops to address children’s nutritional deficiencies in a variety of ways,” Dr. Fentahun Mengistu, Country Director of SAA Ethiopia, tells Food Tank.

The SAA educates and raises awareness among communities and extension agents of the importance of nutritious commodities and nutrition. It also helps communities increase their income and purchasing power, which can channel resources back to the farmers who are cultivating these nutritious foods.

At the farm level, the SAA assists farmers in adopting “nature-positive farming systems” to grow “diverse and nutrient-dense crops such as indigenous crops,” says Mengistu.

When they have the autonomy to grow local, nutritious crops, communities will have more access to those foods. “From the perspective of subsistence farmers, I believe that diversifying farms with nutrient-dense crops and livestock species, including wild and semi-domesticated species, is the most effective way for local communities to address nutrition deficiencies,” Mengistu tells Food Tank.

But poor economic conditions and government policies may inhibit a community’s decision-making power. The Ethiopian government’s incentivizing of monocultures “results in unbalanced nutrition to the community,” Mengistu says.

Greiner hopes to see a shift in the way donor organizations operate. “I’d like to see donors build that capacity to manufacture nutrients in several more countries, so at least much of the trade could be South to South,” Greiner says.

Donor-sponsored aid organizations can also take steps to support indigenous knowledge and practices, Mengistu tells Food Tank. Instead of funding manufactured, imported solutions to nutrition deficiencies, they should “stand for communities’ rights to have agency and decision power on their own resources,” says Mengistu.

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

The post Study Finds Local Foods are the Key to Nutrition in Ethiopia appeared first on Food Tank.

Categories: A3. Agroecology

What’s in Your Manifesto for Disrupting Global Food Politics?

Fri, 01/13/2023 - 06:19

A version of this piece was featured in Food Tank’s newsletter, released weekly on Thursdays. To make sure it lands straight in your inbox and to be among the first to receive it, subscribe now by clicking here.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what Oxford Professor of Philosophy William MacAskill says: “We are the ancients.”

Let me explain what this means with some numbers that boggle my mind: 7 percent of everyone who’s ever depended on a farmer for food is alive right now. But 5,000 years from now, all our farming ancestors and us, combined, will have comprised only 10 percent of human history. (Thanks to Food Tank board member Dr. William Burke for explaining this!)

Humanity is still so young, and our future depends on our stewardship. In hundreds or even thousands of years, our descendants will look back at us—as the ancients. We need to start acting like our grandchildren’s grandchildren are watching us, because they won’t exist if we keep taking sustainability for granted.

Onstage last week at the Oxford Farming Conference in the United Kingdom, I shared what I called a “manifesto for disrupting global food politics,” which I also published on Forbes. I talked more about the conference on our podcast Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg, so I hope you’ll tune in here.

In true manifesto style, my list contains five items—not exactly demands, I suppose—but what I’ll call urgent calls to action that’ll help us all save the world.

Number 1: Invest in women in agriculture. Globally, women make up 43 percent of the agricultural labor force—yet they’re often not allowed access to the same resources and respect as their male counterparts. Across all regions where women are less likely than men to control or own land, the fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods are often of poorer quality.

Simply put: We ignore women at our own peril. If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the number of hungry people in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million due to productivity gains.

I’ve seen this on the ground with groups like the Self Employed Women’s Association, the world’s largest labor union, which demonstrates day in and day out that, when you invest in women, you don’t only invest in an individual or a group—but an entire community.

Number 2: Respect and honor Indigenous Peoples and people of color in our food and agriculture systems. Keep this in mind: Despite the discrimination and genocides they face, Indigenous peoples comprise 5 percent of the global population yet are protecting 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity. The traditional foods that make up the foundation of Indigenous nations’ well-being—crops that are resilient and healthful—should be the foods of the future for all of us.

In the city of Baltimore, where I live and where 65 percent of the population is Black, chefs Tonya and David Thomas are teaching eaters and young folks how to recognize and honor the black food narrative with their work. They are recognizing the foods that those who were formerly enslaved started growing in the United States and the environmental, economic, health, and cultural benefits they still provide.

Through this manifesto, I call for more spaces where the next generations of farmers and activists can learn to honor the earth. More than only investment, they need reparations. Their land was stolen, diminishing their abilities to feed themselves. They deserve more than an apology: Actual financial compensation, so that future generations can thrive.

Number 3: Recognize what youth bring to the table. Farmers around the world are aging: Their average age in the U.S. is about 58, and the same is true, for example, in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, too. For so long, formal spaces have excluded youth, and they’ve viewed farming through a lens of punishment rather than opportunity. But that’s changing—and we’re better for it.

Organizations like Slow Food International; Act4Food Act4Change; YPARD, an international movement by young professionals FOR young professionals for agricultural development; and more are indeed lifting up young people into positions of power—and credit must go to them. Now, it’s time for policymakers and the private sector to embrace collaboration with young folks, too, to make systemic change.

Number 4: Utilize true value and True Cost Accounting in our food and agriculture systems. Let me try to put this in perspective for all of us. The global population consumes about $9 trillion dollars’ worth of food each year. But, according to a report by the U.N. Food Systems Summit 2021 Scientific Group, the external cost of that food production is more than double that—nearly $20 trillion.

These external costs include biodiversity loss, pollution, healthcare costs and lost wages from diet-related diseases, worker abuse, poor animal welfare, and more. What if, instead of just filling people up, we placed economic value on crop and livestock systems that are actually healthy for people and the planet? Systems that provide delicious, nutrient-dense food, that protect workers and the environment, that is regenerative and gives back more than it takes? Systems that carefully account for externalities and make it more profitable to be sustainable?

And finally, Number 5: To policymakers who aren’t focusing on food, get your heads out of the sand! We need common-sense lawmaking around food and agriculture. We need more regular conversations in Capitols and Parliaments around the world, and laws that solve the problems that actually need solving—the problems that farmers, eaters, and businesses face every day.

Let’s all become citizen eaters and vote for the kind of food system we want. Vote with our dollars, yes, but we also have to vote with our votes! Elect candidates who’ll prioritize food and ag not just at the national level but in local school boards, credit unions, mayoral elections, and more, too. Or, run for office yourself!

These five things alone won’t save the world. My husband, who’s a mathematician, would say they’re necessary conditions but not sufficient. This manifesto is a starting place for action—and I hope it’ll inspire you to help save the future.

I’ve met plenty of folks in their 20s and 30s—in all careers and walks of life—who are choosing to become farmers or policymakers or food advocates. They’re the momentum of the food movement. They’re the next generation of leaders, and we can’t squander the world they’ll inherit.

What calls-to-action are on your personal manifesto? Email me at

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of Annie Spratt, Unsplash

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Categories: A3. Agroecology

Study Finds Saskatchewan’s Garden Patch Urban Garden a Success

Wed, 01/11/2023 - 06:44

In Saskatchewan, Canada, the Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre’s (SFBLC) Garden Patch is an urban farming program working to strengthen both community and food security. A recent social return on investment (SROI) study reports that the project is socially and economically successful.

Since the Garden Patch’s establishment in 2010, it has produced nearly 90,718 kilograms of food. “Ninety-five percent of what we produce at the Garden Patch goes to support our Emergency Food Hamper Program in Client Services,” Graham Goff, Garden Patch Project Manager, tells Food Tank.

The Garden Patch not only provides fresh produce for clients, but it also supports the SFBLC’s Nutrition Program and Educational Workshops. These activities include cooking classes, ingredient kit distribution, and school visits. Additionally, those entering or re-entering the workforce can participate in the Work Experience Program, which is designed to enhance job skills, provide coaching, and decrease barriers to employment.

Food Banks Canada’s Hunger Count 2021 Report finds that food bank visits have increased by over 20 percent since 2019. Those located in larger urban centers, like Saskatoon, were more likely to see massive increases in need. Visits to 28 percent of food banks in Canadian urban centers more than doubled. In the face of these challenges, food banks have demonstrated enormous adaptability to shifting needs.

Establishing urban gardens is one adaptive service for food bank customers. Renee Kee, Head of Nutrition Education at Capital Area Food Bank, says urban gardens generally do not contribute enough food to sustain food banks by themselves. But they have the potential to strengthen food banks and pantries’ missions, forge stronger community ties, and create opportunities to broaden approaches addressing food insecurity.

The Garden Patch is working to achieve all of these goals for the Saskatoon community. And the SROI study from the University of Saskatchewan concludes that the program is doing so sustainably. The authors estimate that for every CA$1 invested in the Garden Patch, there is a CA$1.61 of social value returned. The social, environmental, and economic benefits of the program outweigh the costs.

Wanda Martin is an Associate Professor of Nursing at the University of Saskatchewan and co-author of the study. She tells Food Tank there are three key areas for urban farming sustainability. The farm should reduce the effects of climate change by minimizing food waste and feeding more people with that food. It should also promote employment with job training opportunities. And the urban farm should produce value-added food for the people who can afford it.

“You have to create some sort of self-sufficiency within the system,” Martin says. This circularity is what allows projects like the Garden Patch to maximize social returns from minimal input costs.

The Garden Patch strives to accomplish this by involving the whole Saskatoon community. “Countless people have attended workshops, volunteered, or taken part in the education programs we offer,” Goff tells Food Tank.

“So much of what we hope to do at the Garden Patch is demonstrate what can be done with urban agriculture, and hold open a space where people can come and take part in it,” Goff tells Food Tank.

The study views SROI as a tool for social and nonprofit organizations to justify their existence to donors and the community. For the Garden Patch, the authors argue that its SROI results are critical to demonstrate its value as a form of sustainable community development.

“I think the origins of the Garden Patch are perhaps the most important to take note of for those hoping to do something similar in their community,” Goff tells Food Tank. “A very small group of dedicated people were able to plant the seeds of this project that has blossomed to what it is today.”

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Hanna, Unsplash

The post Study Finds Saskatchewan’s Garden Patch Urban Garden a Success appeared first on Food Tank.

Categories: A3. Agroecology

Healthier Oysters, Healthier Chesapeake Bay

Tue, 01/10/2023 - 10:01

The Chesapeake Bay recently recorded the the largest oyster haul in the Chesapeake Bay in over 30 years.

Mark Wilkins, Curator of Maritime History at the Calvert Marine Museum tells Food Tank, “Oysters are not just food, they’re the filtration system for the bay.” As filter feeders, oysters help remove nutrients from the Bay and keep harmful algae blooms in check, ultimately reducing the potential for dead zones and fish kills.

The Chesapeake region’s native oysters, Crassotrea virginica, were once so abundant that ships had difficulty navigating through the waters of the Bay. In 1701, Swiss traveler Francis Louis Michel visited the Chesapeake and reported, “The abundance of oysters is incredible. There are whole banks of them so that the ships must avoid them. They surpass those in England by far in size, indeed, they are four times as large.”

Before and during colonial times, the millions of oysters’ filter feeding each day resulted in the weekly filtration of the entire Chesapeake Bay. Current oyster populations are estimated to be less than 0.3 percent of what they were then. According to The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, this is the result of stressors in the Bay including overharvesting due to high demand, more efficient equipment, development of cities, agricultural runoff, disease, and the shell deficit, which decreases oyster habitat.

To address these challenges, the St. Mary’s River Watershed Association’s (SMRWA) ongoing study, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, focuses on spatfall, or oyster recruitment, in the sanctuary portion of the St. Mary’s River. The intention is to “determine where the best spatfall occurs, in order to inform decision-makers (government, industry, public, etc.) in determining where substrate plantings should be located. In this way, industry can maximize investment and future harvest.”

The two main practices for oyster restoration in the St. Mary’s River are replenishment programs and sanctuary or reserve designation. Many nonprofit groups, including local waterman’s associations like the Oyster Recovery PartnershipTalbot Watermen Association, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation participate in replenishment programs that serve to create oyster habitat. Bob Lewis, Executive Director of SMRWA, tells Food Tank, “If you take the shells out of the bay all the time there is no hard substrate left. And oysters have to grow on hard substrate.”

SMRWA works within the St. Mary’s River shellfish sanctuary to build oyster reefs made of concrete reef balls, oyster shells, and concrete rubble. In the past year alone, they have introduced 374 reef balls into the river and planted 3.6 million oysters. By laying the foundation for oyster recruitment, SMRWA is fighting for future oyster success. “If you have an environmental disaster where everything dies, you still have a hard surface. You still have the reef and oysters will recruit again, ” says Lewis.

In addition to restoration projects, sanctuary or reserve designations are another tactic for supporting sustainable fisheries. Sanctuary or reserve designations can only be made by the government where sanctuaries are more permanent measures, whereas reserve designations have an expiration date. For reserves, “The government might block off five acres or as many as fifteen acres,” explains Lewis, “They come and put in thousands of bushels of shells, we’re talking 10,000-15,000 bushels of shells, and then nobody harvests there for three or four years.”

In 2014, government representatives from the entire watershed signed the Chesapeake Bay Agreement which sets 2025 as the deadline to achieve its goals. By signing the agreement, West Virginia, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania committed to achieving goals fitting within the themes of abundant life, clean water, climate change, land conservation, and community engagement.

The agreement calls for state and federal partners to “continually increase finfish and shellfish habitat and water quality benefits from restored oyster populations and restore native oyster habitat and populations in 10 tributaries by 2025 and ensure their protection.” The St. Mary’s River was targeted as one of the ten tributaries for restoration due to its sanctuary status and historical, physical, and biological characteristics which the Army Corps of Engineers deemed suitable to support large-scale oyster restoration.

A healthy fishery is an indicator of a healthy Chesapeake Bay. Currently, Lewis tells Food Tank, “harvest is about five fold now what it was in 2010.” But Wilkins argues that the Chesapeake’s oysters have a difficult road ahead, and so do those who rely on a healthy oyster fishery for their livelihood. “It’s a way of life that has diminished from what it once was,” says Wilkins. “You can’t just be a waterman anymore because you’re going to starve.”

A report from the Chesapeake Bay Program indicates that surface water temperatures have been rising 0.3° C per decade since the 1960’s. And the report outlines that sea level rise in the Bay is consistently recorded at an average of 3.5 millimeters per year. Changes in water temperature and sea level can lead to increased algae blooms, changes in dissolved oxygen levels, and pathogen growth. “Climate change is going to radically change our planet and we’re not going to be able to stop that. Certainly in the Chesapeake Bay, we’re not prepared at all,” Lewis tells Food Tank.

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of Ben Stern, Unsplash

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Categories: A3. Agroecology

Bringing Regenerative Agriculture Back to Indigenous Communities

Mon, 01/09/2023 - 08:41

By offering support and knowledge to Indigenous communities, the organization K’allam’p is working to inspire resilient food systems while strengthening the sovereignty of the Andean people of Ecuador.

K’allam’p (pronounced ka-jahm-pah) aims to promote regenerative, holistic land management as well as generally bolster the well-being of Indigenous and local communities. To do this, they provide scholarships for educational development, site-specific research and innovation, and consultancy and training, among other services.

In recent years, they have helped the Indigenous members of the Arrayanes community create communal farms that simultaneously serve as learning centers. They have also funded school supplies, transportation, farming equipment, and other needs for the Andean people.

The word “K’allam’p” translates to fungi, mushroom, and the vast network below ground that gives rise to a fruiting body above ground. According to Indigenous thought, the growth of the mushroom often signifies “new beginnings,” President and Co-Founder Katharhy F. tells Food Tank. This regeneration represents the organization’s work. “We are catalyzers,” he says. “We try to catalyze ideas, concepts…conversations.”

As part of their latest project, K’allam’p has partnered with a farmer who owns 25 acres in Ecuador. The land will be used in part to grow medicinal plants for medical providers in the area, enhancing the sovereignty of Indigenous healthcare and education. “We want this farm to not only be a production of crops, but a production of knowledge,” Katharhy F. tells Food Tank.

Additionally, the organization will help the farmer adopt a system modeled after key pillars of regenerative management. Changes include diversifying the farm with cover crops or reducing tillage.

Katharhy F. understands regenerative practices to bring four types of benefits to producers. These include the “return of economy,” the “return of nature,” the “return of social capital,” and the “return of inspiration,” he says.

According to Katharhy F., sustainable farming practices can produce cost-savings as farmers reduce unintended consequences such as nutrient runoff. He also argues that farm profitability increases with the enhancement of natural capital. This refers to the restoration of ecosystem services, such as fertilization, germination, and pest control provided by pollinators and other beneficial insect populations.

The social pillar acknowledges the ways farmers, workers, and the surrounding community interact with one another and the farm. K’allam’p looks at the sharing and transferring of cultural and historical values that shape people’s attitudes toward the land. A systems-level attitude that honors the complexity of the soil and recognizes the connection between humans and nature underpins regenerative land management, Katharhy F. believes.

And a return of inspiration refers to the beginning, young, and family farmers who maintain hope that “what they are doing can be scalable,” he says. This is where he likes to begin his work with others, asking farmers what motivates them to be a farmer in the first place.

Ultimately regenerative agriculture “is human-based, soil-based—and is still struggle-based,” Katharhy F. tells Food Tank, referencing the low funding, labor shortages, and under-appreciation plaguing farmers everywhere. The notion of struggle is important to the work of K’allam’p. “We draw a lot of our inspiration from trauma,” he says. This trauma stems from a history that has left Indigenous communities vastly under-resourced.

But viewing trauma as “a negative consequence or as an oppressive issue” facilitates the “savior mentality” underlying the imposition of a Westernized worldview, Katharhy F. adds. This leads to the spread of modern agricultural ideas and certain metrics of success across Indigenous communities. The result is victimhood in the developing world which detracts from local communities’ autonomy, he asserts.

K’allam’p seeks to give support to the sovereignty of the Indigenous people. The organization believes that doing so can help them thrive in their current place, preventing migration from the land.

The goal of K’allam’p is to spread its regenerative framework, and the sovereignty that follows, not only across the Andes region but eventually within other countries.

Katharhy F., who currently teaches in New York, says he would like to apply the lessons he has learned from working in the Andes to the United States someday. 

“Farming is a common language,” he tells Food Tank. Everyone eats, which means a diverse range of stakeholders, from producers to businesspeople, lawyers, and activists, have a part in promoting more sustainable food production, he explains.

K’allam’p has no outside funding, and the scientists, doctors, and technologists who lead the organization volunteer their time. “We are doing this just because we are citizens of this planet,” Katharhy F. says. “We don’t have money—we just have the will. And where there’s the will, I find a way.”

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of Katharhy F.

The post Bringing Regenerative Agriculture Back to Indigenous Communities appeared first on Food Tank.

Categories: A3. Agroecology

This Is Your Sign to Take Action in the Food System this Year!

Fri, 01/06/2023 - 00:00

A version of this piece was featured in Food Tank’s newsletter, released weekly on Thursdays. To make sure it lands straight in your inbox and to be among the first to receive it, subscribe now by clicking here.

Every year, Food Tank rounds up a mega list of organizations and movements doing important work, day in and day out, to build a better food system in the year ahead.

In 2023, youth-led networks are empowering the next generation of food system leaders. Food waste warriors are successfully pushing for better business practices and government policy. Farmers are implementing sustainable practices. Blue food advocates are recognizing the urgency of transforming marine food systems.

These inspiring folks aren’t only meeting the momentum of the food movement—they are the momentum of the food movement. You can check out the full list HERE.

Last week, I outlined some of Food Tank’s big plans for this year as the food movement continues to gain visibility and support. Of course I hope you’ll consider joining Food Tank if you have not already, which you can do HERE—but more importantly, here’s what I want you to do:

Look at our list of 123 organizations one more time. The initiatives we’re highlighting span the whole world—nearly every continent—and countless food system topics.

Each and every one is an entry point into the important work of addressing systemic inequalities, building resilience, and investing in community-led solutions—and it’s time for us all to dive in.

So now, pick one! Pick one whose mission inspires you. School lunches? Urban farming? Labor organizing? Beer brewing? Black food culture? Data science? Tech innovation? Are you reading this note from Egypt or El Salvador or East Cleveland—or anywhere in between?

We’ve linked just about every organization’s homepage, so click the link and read about how to get involved. Sign up for a volunteer opportunity, or find an event to put on your calendar, or even shoot them an email introducing yourself.

Let this be your motivation to make a change in the food system!

I’ll keep this note short—I’m in the United Kingdom at the Oxford Farming Conference, alongside farmers, business leaders, scientists, advocates, researchers, and more from around Britain and the globe. We’re having illuminating and powerful conversations about the future of agriculture here, and I’ll share more reflections in future notes to you.

But for now, I’ll leave you with this: There’s no reason not to be involved in the food movement this year. True food system transformation means we all need to contribute our individual talents and skills and expertise—and we’ve got 123 excellent places to start.

Keep me in the loop as you continue to take action! Email me at with your thoughts, concerns, ideas of how I can help you, and more.

Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of Vladzimir Nikitsin, Unsplash

The post This Is Your Sign to Take Action in the Food System this Year! appeared first on Food Tank.

Categories: A3. Agroecology


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