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Obama to Keynote Global Food Innovation Summit

The 44th United States President Barack Obama will be the guest of honor at the 2017 Seeds&Chips Global Food Innovation Summit. Obama will be a keynote speaker on May 9, and will also discuss food and agriculture on a panel with Sam Kass, senior food policy advisor to President Obama and promoter of the White House's health-conscious revolution.

This four-day summit will bring together hundreds of business leaders, academics, investors, policymakers and agricultural experts to discuss innovation from farm to table, where food and technology meet, in Milano, Italy, from May 8 to May 11.

In-depth sessions will range from hi-tech topics, such as applications of 3D printing in food, to marketing, such as the impact of millennials on innovation. Food Tank President Danielle Nierenberg will also be speaking at the Seeds&Chips summit as a distinguished guest.

The Global Food Innovation Summit is presented in collaboration with TUTTOFOOD.

17 Food Heroes Who Are Making the World a Better Place

From authors to chefs, business owners to activists, this list is a collection of change makers in every industry working to fix inequalities and problems in the food system all over the world. Their examples have inspired movements and changed minds. We hope their stories and work will inspire you as much as it has inspired us here at Food Tank.

1. Vandana Shiva

Scientist and activist Dr. Vandana Shiva is at the forefront of the sustainable food movement. Fighting against the spread of industrial agriculture, she believes high-yield production is hurting more than helping problems of nutrition and hunger in the world. Her non-governmental organization, Navdanya, has been a proponent of biodiversity since 1991 and is currently fighting the development of Golden Rice, a Vitamin A-rich variety, claiming it's not as beneficial as it seems and could have a heavy impact on the environment.

2. Frances Moore Lappe

The revolutionary Diet for a Small Planet was just the beginning of Moore Lappe's contributions to changing the food system. Her contributions to building a sustainable food system since the book's release in 1985 are numerous, including more books, academic positions and the founding of several organizations. Her most recent endeavor is the Small Planet Institute, an organization that hopes to inspire people around the world through its research on democracy, power, culture and food.

3. Doug Rauch

Rauch is connected to one of the most popular health foods stores in the U.S.—Trader Joe's. After 31 years with the company, including 14 as President, Rauch left in 2008 and in 2012 he founded Daily Table. The not-for-profit store offers fresh produce, as well as healthy, to-go meals at affordable prices for a diverse and economically disadvantaged Boston neighborhood.

4. Christopher Bradshaw

Bradshaw is the founder of Dreaming Out Loud and an advocate for an equitable food system. In DC's most marginalized neighborhoods, Bradshaw introduced new concepts of healthy eating through West African cultural values and symbols. By instilling a sense of cultural belonging, the group hopes to empower communities to make more conscious decisions about health and provide more economic opportunities.

5. Leah Lizarondo

New solutions to food waste are popping up everywhere. Lizarondo's 412 Food Rescue is a go-between for food retailers and community organizations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They aren't a food bank; instead, they deliver fresh food that would otherwise be wasted to organizations that work with food-insecure populations. They fill a vital gap in the food production system. Lizarondo also writes about food and food policy at The Brazen Kitchen and for Pittsburgh Magazine.

6. Amber Stott

Fresh garden produce was an important part of Stott's childhood and with the Food Literacy Center, she is fighting childhood obesity with her enduring love of veggies. To bring healthy eating habits to low-income neighborhoods, Stott and the literacy center teach nutrition and cooking classes where they aim to change the negative attitudes children have toward vegetables. Bringing them closer to the growing and cooking process is the first step.

7. Emile Frison

Frison is plant pathologist at the cutting edge of research in agricultural biodiversity and its contribution to nutrition and the work of smallholder farmers. He is currently the chair of the International Scientific Committee of the Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation and is a member of the International Advisory Board for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

8. Ruth Richardson

With Richardson at the fore, the Global Alliance for the Future of Food strives for equity, sustainability and security in the food system. The alliance, where Richardson is executive director, focuses on the economics of food—how much do we really spend as a society on food—and advocates for solutions to our lopsided system. "I cannot stress enough how important it will be to our future well-being to fix the economic distortions in the food system," Richardson told Food Tank.

9. Nikiko Masumoto

Masumoto recently assumed the responsibility of her family's 80-acre organic peach farm in California. But she's more than just a farmer. She calls herself an "agrarian artist" and last year she published her second book, Changing Season: A Father, A Daughter, A Family Farm, in which she shares her story and experiences as a queer, mixed-race woman in the industry. A gifted speaker, she offers a new vision for a radically changed and more open farming landscape through her work as farmer, woman, artist and activist.

10. Edie Mukiibi

Mukiibi is an agronomist from Uganda and vice president of Slow Food International since 2014. He learned early on that something wasn't working for the farming communities he worked with in his country. As a student in Kampala, he found the modern agronomy practices ignored many of the traditional methods and crops with which small-scale farmers were familiar. He eventually discovered the Slow Food movement and started a convivium to connect people and share information about crop diversity and traditional farming knowledge. His current project is to create 10,000 food gardens in Africa.

11. Lindsey Shute

Touted as a "Champion for Change" by the White House, Shute is a farming revolutionary. Her family farm, Hearty Roots, is part of a Community Supported Agriculture program. Members support the work of the farm in growing organic produce and in return receive access to its freshest products as well as other benefits of its work and location. She is a proponent of young farmers' influence on the future of farming and as such, she started the National Young Farmers Coalition.

12. Pedro Diniz

It might seem difficult to find a straight line between Diniz's former career as a Formula 1 racing driver and his current role as an organic farmer and agroforester. But the link is in the land of his family, on which he currently operates a 2,300 hectare organic produce and dairy farm, Fazenda da Toca, alongside his wife Tatiana Diniz. The operation is a major influence on the environmental stage in São Paulo state and in Brazil. The farm shares its mission to revolutionize agriculture through sustainable cultivation at its on-site learning center, Instituto Toca.

13. Pavan Sukhdev

Environmental economist Sukhdev sees a green future, green in its health and wealth. He was the special adviser and head of United Nation's Environment Program's Green Economy Initiative and study leader for the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity study from G8+5, which looked to place a financial value on what we gain from nature and more specifically, its biodiversity. "I began my life as a markets professional and continued to take an interest, but most of my recent effort has been looking at the value of what comes to human beings from nature and which doesn't get priced by the markets," he said in his TED talk from 2011.

14. Miraci Pereira Silva

Miraci Pereira Silva is an organic farmer from the Roseli Nunes settlement in western Brazil. For years, members of her community have grown crops, such as lettuce, beans and papaya to sell locally. But their land is increasingly threatened by encroaching biofuel-linked sugarcane farms and their use of pesticides.

15. Miriam Miranda

Miranda assumed the role of feminist leader as a student in Tegucigalpa, where she also worked with women in poverty. She is of the Garifuna, an indigenous community in Honduras who have been forced off land by land grabs and resort development. The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, of which Miranda is coordinator, are fighting legal battles against the state for protection of their land and rights. Despite threats on her life and even being kidnapped once, she strides forward in the fight for her people.

16. Geum-Soon Yoon

Geum-Soon is a farmer in South Korea and president of the Korean Women's Peasant Association, which seeks to empower South Korean women farmers. She is an unwavering advocate for thousands of women in communities with high rates of domestic abuse and a lack of female control over the land despite their contributions to cultivation. The association seeks to improve agricultural policies, bring back seed diversity and provide gender equality education programs.

17. Ben Burkett

Southern-Mississippi farmer Ben Burkett knows what it takes to keep a farm afloat in the deep south. While managing his family's four-generation old vegetable farm, he also serves as an advocate for several communities in the region. As president of the National Family Farm Coalition and director of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, he supports underserved black farmers, family farms and cooperative farming, a necessity for small-scale farmers in the south, he said. In 2014, he was awarded the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award.

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10 Celebrities Advocating for a Sustainable Food System

By Alanna Wittet

Star status can bring the opportunity for celebrities to wear many hats and draw attention to environmental and health issues. Whether they are producing or performing music for fair trade campaigns, designing ethically sourced products or growing food for the hungry, these 10 stars are using their fame and dollars to advocate for a more sustainable food future for all:

Jessica Alba: After becoming a mother and struggling to find chemical-free personal care and baby products with transparent disclosures, Jessica Alba co-founded The Honest Company alongside environmental scientist Christopher Gavigan. The company creates a variety of personal care, cleaning and baby care and nutrition products that are sustainable, transparent, ethically sourced.

Jason Brown: After leaving his NFL football career in 2012, Brown took up farming to help feed North Carolina's hungry. His 1,000-acre farm, First Fruits Farm, donates its first fruits of the harvest to local food pantries. A self-taught farmer, Brown donated more than 46,000 pounds of sweet potatoes and 10,000 pounds of cucumbers to food pantries in 2014.

50 Cent: In addition to being a member of Feeding America's Entertainment Council, 50 Cent also aids in the fight against hunger through his Street King initiative. With every bottle of his Street King energy shot sold, he funds one meal for a child in need through the World Hunger Programme. Having funded 3.5 million meals so far, he aims to provide 1 billion meals. To combat hunger in America, 50 Cent has also partnered his SMS Audio brand with Feeding America to additionally fund 250 meals with every headphone set purchased in the U.S.

Coldplay: As a global ambassador for Oxfam International, Coldplay has vocally supported and furthered the reach of the organization's mission to end global poverty, injustice and hunger. Promoting Oxfam's GROW and Make Fair Trade campaigns while on tour, Coldplay helped disseminate the message to more than 100 million people. Lead singer Chris Martin has also traveled to Ghana and Haiti to observe the effects of unfair trade on farmers.

Michael Kors: Michael Kors is a Global Ambassador Against Hunger for the U.N. World Food Programme. Since 2013, Kors' Watch Hunger Stop Campaign has helped to provide more than 10 million meals to children through the WFP's School Meals Programme, while also engaging other celebrities on the issue of world hunger through their involvement in the campaign.

Kate Hudson: Joining Michael Kors and his campaign to alleviate hunger worldwide, Katie Hudson serves an ambassador and spokesperson to Watch Hunger Stop. In helping to launch his latest watch style for the campaign, every watch sold will provide 100 children a nutritious meal.

Jamie Oliver: In addition to being a celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver further works towards building a stronger and healthier food system through his foundation, the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation. By providing food education programs and global campaigns to influence international food policy, the Foundation works to transform people's lives by both improving access to good, fresh and real foods and equipping people with cooking skills. He is also active in lobbying the U.K. government to establish a multi-sectorial Child Obesity Strategy to improve children's nutrition and reduce obesity. In 2016, Oliver's Foundation has been present at key global events including the World Health Assembly, The Nutrition Growth Summit and the U.N. General Assembly, championing policy to combat childhood obesity.

Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson: In 1985, Young, Mellencamp, and Nelson hosted the first Farm Aid concert to draw attention to the loss of family farms and to raise money to keep farming families on their land. To date, Farm Aid has raised more than US$50 million to support family farms in America by promoting food produced by family farms, supporting fair farm policies and providing resources that help farmers thrive.

Clif Bar CEO Shares His Company's 'Five Aspirations'

By Kate Reed

Food Tank, in partnership with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, is hosting the 1st Annual Chicago Food Tank Summit on Nov. 16.

This event will feature more than 40 different speakers from the food and agriculture field. Researchers, farmers, chefs, policymakers, government officials and students will come together for interactive panels, networking, and delicious food, followed by a day of hands-on activities and opportunities for attendees.

Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Kevin Cleary, CEO of Clif Bar & Company, who will be speaking at the summit.

Kevin Cleary, CEO of Clif Bar & CompanyClif Bar & Company

Q: What initiatives have you launched recently, or are planning to launch, that will further your company's sustainability efforts?

A: One of our most exciting new sustainability initiatives is the launch of our new 275,000-square foot bakery in Twin Falls, Idaho, which is slated to open in late spring. The Clif Bar Baking Company of Twin Falls will help us meet the growing demand for our organic energy and nutrition bars. It's the first bakery we've built and we're excited to bring new jobs to a region through a business that will increase the availability of nutritious, organic food and have a low environmental footprint.

The bakery will not only be an inspiring place to work—with elegant design elements and landscaping—but will also be good for the planet focusing on zero waste, water conservation and energy efficiency. We anticipate the bakery will receive one of the highest LEED building certifications.

Sustainable aspects of the bakery will include 100-percent energy generation from renewable resources, cutting-edge processes and packaging systems to maximize energy efficiency, heat capture technology, "smart lighting" systems, a "cool roof" for improved energy efficiency and lower greenhouse gas emissions and organic landscaping with habitats for bees and butterflies.

Q: What drives you and your company to push for sustainability?

A: At Clif Bar, we gauge our success not on one, but on five bottom lines. We call them our Five Aspirations, and one of them is Sustaining the Planet. These aspirations are at the very core of how we operate as a business—they guide each of our decisions and we measure ourselves annually on how we perform against each aspiration or bottom line.

The guiding principle of our Planet Aspiration is to conserve and restore our natural resources, growing a business that works in harmony with the laws of nature. That principle helped lead us to transition to organic ingredients beginning in 2003, to commit to operating a climate neutral business, to build a headquarters that meets the highest green building standards and to start the Clif Bar Family Foundation, whose efforts include sponsoring a Seed Matters initiative to improve the viability and availability of organic seed.

Q: What is the biggest food related issue facing our planet right now? How is your company working to solve that problem?

A: Today, we have a food system that is facing a combination of rapid population growth, unpredictable patterns of weather and diminishing quantity and quality of natural resources of soil and water. Instead of diversifying the agricultural tools and technologies needed to address these issues, we've over-investing our public tax dollars into a narrow portfolio of agrichemical "solutions." It is an investment that will cost us dearly in the future—both in the depletion of natural resources and public health.

Today, organic receives less than one percent of public funding for agricultural research. So, it is no wonder that less than one percent of U.S. agriculture is organic. We need to make it easier for farmers to transition to organic and we need to do a better job of setting them up for success.

For Clif Bar & Company, it starts with organic ingredients. Since 2003, we've purchased more than 637 million pounds of organic ingredients and today, 73 percent of our all the ingredients we use are organic. To help support organic farming into the future, Clif Bar has spearheaded a five-year, US$10 million investment to create the nation's first endowed chairs in organic research at five U.S. universities, funded 14 graduate fellowships in organic plant breeding and given more than US$1.5 million to support the development of organic seed.

Q: Do you have any enlightening stories to share of collaboration between your business and other businesses or organizations that have changed your business practices?

A: We partner with many organic farmers to purchase the organic ingredients they grow for the foods we make—farmers who grow organic grains, fruits and nuts ranging from oats to almonds to cranberries. Our growth sometimes strains the available supply of certain organic ingredients so we've been looking for innovative ways to work with our farmers to address that issue.

For example, we source fig paste from a family farm in California that grows organic and conventional figs. With our growth as a business, we told them we need an additional one million pounds of organic figs a year. They could only meet our needs if they transitioned several hundred acres from conventional to organic farmland—a transition process that would take three years.

In a unique contract for us—for its length and its goal to help a farmer transition land from conventional to organic farming—we guaranteed the family that we'll buy all of their organic figs for seven years after they complete the transition of their farm acreage to organic. That's a win for both of us, so we entered into a 10-year agreement. That agreement alone is going to increase the amount of organic fig acreage in the U.S. by 20 percent.

Q: What changes would you like to see from the U.S. government to support sustainability in the food system?

A: As a country, we need to make deeper investments in the well-being of our rural communities in general and the future of organic agriculture specifically. We'd love to see:

  • State and federal incentives for landowners to provide long-term leases of agricultural land. Longer leases would provide stability for all forms of agriculture, but they're especially important to organic farmers who need three years to transition to organic.
  • Increased financial support for farmers who want to transition to organic. Offering a one-time investment to support a transition to organic would help farmers bridge three-year transition period while avoiding a long-term, subsidy-based system.
  • Increased public funding for organic research and extension services, especially in plant breeding. Organic is often criticized for not providing competitive yields, but most organic farmers start at a disadvantage because they are not using seed developed for organic production systems.

Q: What was a turning point in your company and why?

A: In 2001, Clif Bar's owners, Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford, turned down a US$120 million offer to sell the company. With the decision to stay independent, Gary and Kit had the chance to catalyze a new, different way of doing business—one that focused on five bottom lines, instead of just one. Our Five Aspirations—sustaining our business, brands, people, community and the planet—serve as our guiding principles for every decision we make whether it's working to reduce our environmental footprint, giving back to the community or creating a healthy and inspiring place to work.

Q: What three things do you want your customers to know about your company?

A: Kit Crawford, Clif Bar's owner and co-Chief Visionary Officer, captured it best when she said, at Clif Bar our goal is to "…run a different kind of company … the kind of place we'd like to work, that makes the kind of food we'd like to eat, that strives for a healthier, more sustainable world, the kind of world, we'd like to pass on to our children." These are the four things that we aspire to every day.

Kate Reed is a Food Tank Intern, working towards her dual masters MPH and MBA. She is currently a registered dietitian in the Chicagoland area. She is passionate about nutrition, public health and improving the lives of others.

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World's First Urban Bee Highway Helps Save Pollinators


By Tasnim Abdi

In 2015, ByBi, an environmental group based in Oslo, Norway, designed the world's first urban bee highway—a route filled with green roofs and flowers—that supports bees living in city environments.

ByBi

One-third of Norway's 200 wild bee species are endangered. The bee highway works with businesses, schools, organizations and individuals residing in Oslo to build bee-friendly feeding stations and accommodations. The purpose of the project is to connect the green zones in the urban environment, which include flower beds, plant corridors and green roofs. People are encouraged to plant nectar-bearing flowers for bees around the city.

A website was created to let individuals share information on how they want to contribute to the project. The participants, including companies, governmental agencies and individuals, can write about where they are planting flowers, for example. The website also shows the route in which the bees take to travel in Oslo.

Pollinator Passasjen

According to ByBi, there are also "gray areas" where there are no sources of food for the bees. Individuals are encouraged to plant flowers in these areas.

"We are constantly reshaping our environment to meet our needs, forgetting that other species also live in it," the head of ByBi, Agnes Lyche Melvaer, said.

Melvaer also suggests that it is important to return places to the bees where they find food and live. For example, a garden called Abel's Garden was initially only covered in grass and it was later converted into a "feeding station" filled with flowers.

The bee highway is the first system of its kind designed to provide an environment where bees can travel through a city.

In the middle of Oslo's business district, an accountant firm is planting Sedum plants and two bee hives on its terrace. The bee hives can accommodate around 45,000 worker bees. Marie Skjelbred, an accountant at PwC Norway, spearheaded the project at the firm. Skjelbred convinced her employer to work with the owners of the building to finance the project.

"One should see it as a sign that companies are also taking responsibility for preserving biodiversity," Marie Skjelbred, an amateur beekeeper, said.

Skjelbred also explains that one bee produces a spoon of honey. "If we did their job, paid at the minimum wage, a pot of honey would cost US$182,000," Skjelbred, after calculating the costs, said.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, bees are responsible for around 35 percent of food production.

It is estimated that 35 percent of food production is dependent on pollination from bees.iStock

Christian Steel at the Norwegian Biodiversity Network, an organization working with amateur and professional biologists in Norway, explains that the bee highway project can help protect bees. He also criticizes the short-term solutions of the Norwegian government.

"The government seems to hide behind these kinds of private initiatives, while pursuing in parallel a policy of promoting intensive agriculture which leads to the death of many bees," Christian Steel said.

Steel also explains that there is a mutual dependence between humans and bees. "Agriculture is completely dependent on pollinators to maintain food production just as insects are dependent on diverse agriculture to survive," he said.

This initiative highlights the challenges involving protecting bees around the world.

Agnes Lyche Melvaer, the head of ByBi, explains that she is optimistic. She suggests that there is the "butterfly effect."

"If we manage to solve a global problem locally, it's conceivable that this local solution will work elsewhere, too," Agnes Lyche Melvaer said.

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