Thursday, January 10, 2013

Caring Causes: FoodTank.

There are major issues with the global food system. More than 1 billion people are obese; nearly 1 billion people go to bed hungry every night; at least 2 billion people suffer from nutrient deficiencies; and food price speculation and massive consolidation of farms and companies has led to price spikes and poverty in the developing world. The impacts of climate change and decades of disregard for soil and water health are becoming increasingly evident, leading to drought and disease worldwide.
We need solutions - not just temporary measures implemented in one sector. We need changes from schools and hospitals to fields and forests and from boardrooms to parliaments. Food Tank: The Food Think Tank, founded by food and agriculture experts Ellen Gustafson and Danielle Nierenberg, is a new voice in bringing attention to these important issues. Food Tank will attempt to help propel change by fostering the growing community of voices on food issues. In 2013, Food Tank will be planning a "Change the Food System" summit, conducting on-the-ground research both domestically and internationally, preparing research reports and books, highlighting road maps for sustainable agricultural systems, and building an innovations database. And the Food Tank website will be posting new research and insights daily.

The goal of Food Tank: The Food Think Tank is to find ways to connect domestic and global food issues, highlighting the need for changing the metrics regarding how food security and nutrition are measured. While yields and calories are important, they are not the only measurements of a healthy food system — we also need to consider environmental sustainability, the nutritional quality of food, gender equity, and involvement of youth, when measuring whether a food system is ‘successful.’ 

“We’re trying to bridge the major disconnect between organizations that are fighting hunger and organizations that are fighting obesity. The two groups have more in common than they think. The truth is we’re all fighting to get people access to nutritious food, no matter where they are in the world,” says Ellen Gustafson, co-founder of Food Tank. 
“Agriculture can be the solution to some the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges," according to Danielle Nierenberg, co-founder of Food Tank. "We can create state-of-the-art sustainable farming systems by using a combination of traditional practices that have worked for hundreds years all over the world with modern eco-friendly technologies.”
A large share of the human family is still chronically without food, reliable income, and access to education. Over the last 30 years, the western food system has been built to promote over-consumption of a few consolidated commodities and has failed to be the harbinger of health as it spreads around the world. The epidemic of obesity in industrialized and developing countries alike is increasing the risks of diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, and other maladies. Ironically, the 'solution' to hunger—increasing production of starchy staple crops—has also created the problem of obesity. 
In addition, we waste vast amounts of food—more than one third of all food worldwide is wasted, or 1.3 billion tons annually. In the developing world, roughly 40 percent of all food goes to waste as a result of pests, disease, and improper storage. 
We need to find a different way to feed the world.

Fixing the system requires changing the conversation and finding ways to make food production—and consumption—more economically and environmentally sustainable and socially just.
The solutions, both big and small, are out there—in market garden projects in rural Niger, on rooftop gardens in Vietnam, at research institutes in Taiwan, in European healthy school food systems, in the explosion of farmers markets across the U.S., in global food retailing initiatives that prevent food waste, and in individual communities, regions, and countries all over the world. Unfortunately, these projects are not getting the attention and the investment they need. The science is out there, too, yet it is not getting the funding to change the metrics we use to measure agricultural success. This needs to change.
About the founders:
Ellen Gustafson is a sustainable food system activist, innovator, and social entrepreneur.  Ellen was the Founder and Executive Director of the 30 Project, a think + do tank changing the conversation about the global food system by connecting hunger and obesity. The 30 Project brought together key organizations and activists working around the world on addressing hunger, obesity, and agriculture issues to talk about their visions for the food system over the next 30-years She also co-Founded FEED Projects, LLC, and is currently working on a book with Rodale tentatively entitled We the Eaters.
Danielle Nierenberg is co-founder of FoodTank: The Food Think Tank. She is an expert on sustainable agriculture and food issues. She recently spent two years traveling to more than 35 countries across sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America looking at environmentally sustainable ways of alleviating hunger and poverty. Her knowledge of global agriculture issues has been cited and published in more than 3,000 major publications including The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the International Herald Tribune, The Washington Post, BBC, the Guardian(UK), the Mail and Guardian (South Africa), the East African (Kenya), TIME magazine, Reuters, Agence France Presse, Voice of America, the Times of India, and other major publications. Danielle worked for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic. She holds an M.S. in Agriculture, Food, and Environment from Tufts University and a B.A. in Environmental Policy from Monmouth College.

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