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19 Organizations and Initiatives Winning in the Food Movement

Food
19 Organizations and Initiatives Winning in the Food Movement
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By Jared Kaufman

On November 1st and 2nd, more than 80 food activists, farmers, policymakers, performers, journalists, researchers, business leaders, chefs and others will gather in New York City for the 3rd Annual Food Tank NYC Summit and Gala Dinner. This year, we're focusing around the theme of "The Food Movement Is Growing (and Winning)!" The hard work that food system advocates do every day is making a difference, and we're highlighting the small victories and major achievements that are building a more equitable and environmentally sustainable food system.


Food Tank is featuring 19 nonprofits, companies, and inspiring initiatives that will be represented at our summit and are doing important work to push the food system forward.

1. Africa Farmers Club

A community of farmers across 18 African countries, the Africa Farmers Club aims to bring agricultural workers together from the private sector, the public sector, and farmer organizations to share stories, successes, and knowledge. The Africa Farmers Club believes that "an informed farmer will always make the right decision, which will have a ripple effect in the whole value chain," so they aim to promote entrepreneurship and networking to help farmers use resources as efficiently as possible.

2. Apeel

A natural postharvest protection for produce, Apeel is an invisible, edible, and tasteless coating. By acting as a barrier-like skin to protect fruits and vegetables from oxidation and microbial activity, keeping it fresh for longer and reducing food waste between harvest and consumption. Apeel Sciences was founded by Dr. James Rogers, who invented the technology while completing his doctoral degree in materials sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

3. Co-Op Dayton

Co-Op Dayton is a nonprofit that encourages businesses in Dayton, Ohio, and more broadly to adopt a cooperative model of worker ownership. Cooperative companies are owned by their employees, who are elected to the company's board of directors and participate in open-book financial management. Co-Op Dayton provides resources and services to businesses adopting a cooperative model, to encourage the development of more resilient, community-oriented co-op companies.

4. Farmer’s Fridge

Farmer's Fridge, launched in 2013, installs refrigerators full of fresh salads, sandwiches, breakfasts, and snacks in cities from Chicago to Milwaukee and Indianapolis. Farmer's Fridge is looking to make it easier for people to access healthy food options, wherever they are, at any time of day. And instead of expiration dates, food in the fridges is marked with a "donate by" date, when the food is donated to community partner organizations. As part of their sustainability efforts, any food that is not able to be donated is composted.

5. Food Policy Action

Food Policy Action was founded in 2012 through a collaboration of national food policy leaders, including Chef Tom Colicchio, Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group, and Gary Hirshberg, the Chairman of Stonyfield Farm, to hold legislators accountable on legislation effects food and farming.

6. GrowNYC

GrowNYC provides free tools and services for New Yorkers to help improve access to fresh, healthy local food. In addition to a network of farmers' markets and fresh food organizations, GrowNYC builds and rejuvenates community and school gardens and delivers environmental stewardship programs to more than 30,000 children each year.

7. The HAPPY Org

HAPPY—Happy Active Positive Purposeful Youth—is a youth-led organization that addresses the physical, mental, emotional, and social health issues they face today. They equip kids and their families with the resources, skills, and information to takes responsibility for their own health and confidently embrace nutritious and affordable food. Founded by Haile Thomas, the organization brings fun and engaging programs to schools, camps, and communities to engage youth in nutrition.

8. Heated

Heated is a new online food magazine that's a collaboration between the publication site Medium and Mark Bittman, a former New York Times food writer and the author of the cookbook How to Cook Everything. Rather than posting articles on new restaurants or profiles of chefs, the website aims to "showcase the links between food and just about everything else: agriculture, politics, history, and labor; culture and cooking; identity, family, and love."

9. Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center

The Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center works to develop innovative and evidence-based solutions to prevent chronic diseases and promote food security in and outside of New York City. The center's research, policy analysis, and education opportunities joins experts and students together to brainstorm ways New York City's food policy can be a model for the rest of the world.

10. Misfits Market

Misfits Market is a subscription box-meets-food rescue. Working directly with farms around the U.S., Misfits Market buys imperfect produce that may have otherwise been thrown out because it does not look uniform enough to sell in a traditional grocery store. In each box, which comes every week or every other week, subscribers will receive this nutritious, organic produce for prices up to 25–40 percent lower than at a traditional grocery store. As of late 2019, Misfits Market delivers to 19 states plus Washington, D.C.

11. Rise and Root Farm

Karen Washington, a farmer and community activist, wants to build a different agricultural narrative, inclusive of all races, genders, and sexualities. She created Rise and Root Farm to be a place of healing for diverse and marginalized communities — particularly important today, as black farmers work to call attention to not only their own contributions to the modern food system but also the impact of the slave trade on the development of global food chains. "Agriculture must be inclusive in its diversity," Washington tells Food Tank.

12. Sealed Air

Sealed Air, which has decades of experience creating sustainable food packaging — they manufacture the Cryovac brand of products — aims to use food packaging as a way to address worldwide resource depletion and wasteful supply chains. Food scientist Karl Deily leads Sealed Air's commercial team, which aims to create innovative packaging that improves food safety, extends the shelf life of foods, and reduces waste in the food supply chain.

13. Slow Food USA

Slow Food USA is part of the global Slow Food network, which spreads a mission of good, clean, and fair food for all to over 150,000 members in more than 150 countries. Through a vast volunteer network of local chapters, youth, and food communities, they link the pleasures of the table with a commitment to protect community, culture, knowledge, and environment.

14. SnackFutures

Through its innovation and venture hub SnackFutures, food company Mondelēz is pairing startups with experts to help cultivate the future of sustainable, delicious snacking. SnackFutures identifies delicious, nutritious, and environmentally sustainable ingredients that would otherwise be passed off as waste and works to create new brands with them. "It's critical that Mondelēz and other big companies interact with entrepreneurs to keep learning and get stronger together," Brigitte Wolf, the global head of SnackFutures Innovation at Mondelēz, told Food Tank.

15. Soul Fire Farm

Soul Fire Farm grows food as an act of solidarity with those oppressed by food apartheid, while maintaining respect for their ancestors, history, and the environment. Soul Fire Farm conducts training programs to raise the next generation of activist-farmers and support food sovereignty for future communities. The organization's Co-Director Leah Penniman recently completed a book, "Farming While Black," a guide for African-heritage growers to reclaim their dignity.

16. Square Roots

This urban farming company, located in Brooklyn, NY, grows a range of delicious herbs and distributes them directly to grocery stores across NYC. At the heart of Square Roots is their unique year-long Next-Gen Farmer Training Program, which provides an opportunity for young people to enter the farming industry. Square Roots farmers spend the year learning about plant science and how to grow indoors while getting exposed to business and community building. Co-founded by Tobias Peggs and Kimbal Musk, the farming company graduated its first class of students in 2017.

17. Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is a nonprofit organization that aims to create a food system that is healthy and sustainable. They operate an 80-acre farm and education center that experiments with and improves sustainable farming practices, trains beginning farmers, helps children discover the sources of their food and increases public awareness of seasonal and sustainable food.

18. Trove

Founded by Sam Kass, former White House Chef and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition, Trove collaborates with corporations involved with transforming health, the climate, and the planet through food. They serve as strategic advisors, investors, and communication strategists to help innovative food companies achieve greater impact.

19. WhyHunger

WhyHunger works to end hunger and poverty by connecting people to nutritious, affordable food and by supporting grassroots solutions to promote self-reliance and community empowerment. Their programs include a hotline to connect those in need with resources and initiatives to advance international food sovereignty and the basic rights to food, land, water, and sustainable livelihoods.

Jared Kaufman is a Research and Writing Fellow with Food Tank and a Boston-based food journalist and cheesemonger.

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Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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