Food Tank’s Danielle Nierenberg Discusses the Food “Movement” and Tells Us How to Make Change

Danielle Nierenberg, Food Tank’s co-founder, will be at Edible Institute. We asked her why she thinks the event is important and what she thinks we can do to make change.

danielle nierenberg
If the many followers of the good food movement were to unite under one banner, it would be Food Tank’s. The “food think tank” champions many food system-related causes — ranging from the reduction of food waste to seed sovereignty — “by creating a network of connections and information for all of us to consume and share.”

We’re so fortunate to have the president and cofounder of Food Tank, Danielle Nierenberg, join us at Edible Institute on May 10-11.

She’ll be moderating a panel that will discuss what it will take to bring the good food movement to scale in school cafeterias, hospitals and beyond.

Tickets for Edible Institute are still on sale. Reserve your place to hear Danielle alongside Mark Bittman, Anna Lappé, Jane Black and other food and drink enthusiasts (like you).

Edible Manhattan: Why are you joining us at Edible Institute?
Danielle Nierenberg: Because I love Edible and I think [Edible Institute] is such a great forum for the food system. You have chefs, journalists, farmers, practitioners and people from all areas at this forum. I don’t think that there’s another conference out there that brings all of these players together to meet face-to-face. It’s very exciting.

EM: Where is the food movement headed?
DN: I see a lot of hope and a lot of opportunity but I don’t think we’ve done a good job at organizing ourselves into a cohesive movement across all our areas including animal welfare, workers rights, food waste, food safety and so on. Sometimes these smaller groups are even competing for the same funding. It’s important to bring everyone together in this type of forum so that different players can meet, discuss, argue and deliberate. I was recently on a panel with Michael Pollan and he said that he met with President Obama who asked for Pollan to “show [him] the food movement.” I think we can bring all the different causes within the food system together and it’s why forums like Edible Institute are important.

EM: What can we do to make change?
DN: I don’t think we should only be gathering and talking — we should also be doing, and that’s happening in so many different ways. If we look at where we were 10-15 years ago a lot of progress has been made in terms of public awareness.

I don’t have any recommendations, like “voting with your dollar,” that haven’t been said before. What’s important now is to scale. Folks are realizing it’s not enough to buy organic food. It’s about everyday practices like minimizing food waste, being intentional about portion sizes, having a composting system, cooking more, creating conviviality and so on. These are things we can push for in our own lives. Food responsibility is a lifestyle. We’re far past buying kale at the farmers market. We need to incorporate our personal actions tied to these larger issues into our daily lives. Whether it’s in the restaurant, home or workplace, these things can be done immediately and by individuals.

EM: What topic stands out to you as powerful?
DN: That’s really hard since there are so many great people who will be there. I’ve known Brian [Halweil] for a long time and he’s such an amazing thinker and speaker on these issues. I also think the food journalism panel is really powerful and I really admire Sam Fromartz. It’s important to discuss and tell the stories of these issues in a way that is palatable and engaging for people.

As far as my panel, most consumers don’t think about the impact of the food service industry and bringing this issue to a bigger audience is a great idea. There’s low hanging fruit to make the service industry more sustainable and tasty. Bringing these ideas into this space is a great way to get started.

EM: Tell us about a personal food-related project you’re working on — outside of your publicized work.
DN: The thing that I’m most excited about right now is the International Year of Family Farming. We’ve partnered with the U.N. and others and it’s really exciting to tell the stories of farmers who are affecting their local communities in ways that are almost never recognized. I’ve just had this tremendous opportunity; as part of working together, I get to meet family farmers from all over the world. I recently met with farmers in Hungary who are organizing and pushing for change in Eastern Europe. I also recently met with family farmers from all over North America in Quebec City where I had the chance to learn about what’s happening in communities spanning from Mexico to Canada. These are stories that I probably would never hear otherwise, so I know that I am very lucky and I try not to forget it.

EM: Tell us a few of your favorite places to go in New York.
DN: Oh gosh — there are just really too many. Choosing is too hard! There’s Candle Café and I always enjoy cocktails at the Ace Hotel. This is just too big of a question!

Join Danielle at Edible Institute. Get your tickets here.

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Ariel Lauren Wilson

Lauren is the editor-in-chief of Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn.