19 Organizations and Initiatives Winning in the Food Movement
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Michelle D. Holmes
Most Americans know about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans primarily through their colorful representations: the original food pyramid, which a few years ago morphed into MyPlate. The guidelines represent the government mothering us to choose the healthiest vegetables, grains, sources of protein, and desserts, and to eat them in the healthiest portions.
As innocuous as the food pyramid and MyPlate seem, they are actually a matter of life and death.
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Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced legislation to ban some of the most toxic pesticides currently in use in the U.S. D-Keine / E+ / Getty Images
By Jake Johnson
Democrats in the House and Senate on Tuesday introduced sweeping legislation that would ban some of the most toxic pesticides currently in use in the U.S. and institute stronger protections for farmworkers and communities that have been exposed to damaging chemicals by the agriculture industry.
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By Alex Thornton
The Australian government has announced a A$190 million (US$130 million) investment in the nation's first Recycling Modernization Fund, with the aim of transforming the country's waste and recycling industry. The hope is that as many as 10,000 jobs can be created in what is being called a "once in a generation" opportunity to remodel the way Australia deals with its waste.
Waste Mountain<p>The need for a dramatic increase in Australia's recycling capacity pre-dates the COVID-19 pandemic. <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-27/where-does-all-australias-waste-go/11755424" target="_blank">Australians create approximately 67 million tons of waste a year</a>, and like in many wealthy countries, much of that was sent overseas. That all changed when China announced it was <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/10/china-has-banned-foreign-waste-so-whats-the-future-of-world-recycling" target="_blank">banning the import of a huge range of foreign waste</a> and recyclables. Soon <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/05/malaysia-flooded-with-plastic-waste-to-send-back-some-scrap-to-source" target="_blank">other countries followed suit</a>, and Australia was forced to look for alternative solutions.</p>
Biggest exporters of plastic. Statista
Waste Export Ban<p>Australia has adopted a strategy of taking responsibility for its own waste. Starting in January 2021, it is phasing in <a href="http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste-resource-recovery/waste-export-ban" target="_blank">bans on the export of different forms of waste</a>. By mid 2024, Australia's home-grown recycling industry will have to deal with an extra 650,000 tons of waste plastic, paper, glass and tires.</p><p>"As we cease shipping our waste overseas, the waste and recycling transformation will reshape our domestic waste industry, driving job creation and putting valuable materials back into the economy," federal environment minister Sussan Ley said in a <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-australia-waste/australia-to-set-up-132-million-fund-to-boost-recycling-following-export-curbs-idUKKBN247060" target="_blank">statement to Reuters</a>.</p>
Timeline for Australia's waste export ban. Australian Government
Trash Into Treasure<p>The benefits to the environment of boosting recycling rates are well known – less landfill, less plastic in our ocean, reduced need for virgin materials, and lower carbon emissions. The Recycling Modernization Fund initiative aims to divert more than 10 million tons of waste from landfill, part of an <a href="http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste-resource-recovery/publications/national-waste-policy-action-plan" target="_blank">overall strategy to reduce the total waste generated per person by 10%</a>, and push <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/7381c1de-31d0-429b-912c-91a6dbc83af7/files/national-waste-report-2018.pdf" target="_blank">Australia's total resource recovery rate from 58% in 2017</a> to 80% by 2030.</p><p>But like many countries, Australia is focusing on the economic benefits of better waste management as well.</p><p>"This will mean Australia converts more waste into higher valued resources ready for reuse locally by manufacturers and brands in their packaging and products," Rose Read, CEO of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council, <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-australia-waste/australia-to-set-up-132-million-fund-to-boost-recycling-following-export-curbs-idUKKBN247060" target="_blank">told Reuters</a>.</p>
Green Jobs<p>The great potential of the circular economy to create green jobs is being recognized across the world.</p><p>In the UK, the Waste and Resources Action Program has launched a <a href="https://wrap.org.uk/buildbackbetter" target="_blank">six-point plan which it claims could add $90 billion to the economy, and create 500,000 new jobs</a>. Investment in the circular economy forms a significant part of the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan that Democratic candidate Joe Biden</a> is taking into November's US presidential election. And the <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_940" target="_blank">European Union has put its Green New Deal at the heart of its plans for recovery</a> from the economic shock of COVID-19.</p><p>The World Economic Forum's <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_Future_Of_Nature_And_Business_2020.pdf" target="_blank">Future of Nature and Business</a> report identifies 15 systemic transitions with annual business opportunities worth $10 billion a year that could create 395 million jobs by 2030.</p><p>As is the case with Australia's Recycling Modernization Fund, a combination of private enterprise and government investment can offer ways to get people back to work by building a more environmentally sustainable economy.</p>
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The Great American Outdoors Act is now the law of the land.
<div id="e0008" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ffc07febbf5d2d585ad06d3f43e2be56"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1290667833999929344" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Breaking News: The President has just signed the bipartisan #GreatAmericanOutdoorsAct. It will help: 🏗️ Restore… https://t.co/RPefKPMn7S</div> — Fix Our Parks (@Fix Our Parks)<a href="https://twitter.com/FixOurParksUS/statuses/1290667833999929344">1596554165.0</a></blockquote></div>
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By Andrew J. Whelton and Caitlin R. Proctor
In recent years wildfires have entered urban areas, causing breathtaking destruction.
Survivors left everything to flee the Camp Fire's path. Andrew Whelton / Purdue University
Wildfires and Water<p>Both the Tubbs and Camp fires destroyed fire hydrants, water pipes and meter boxes. Water leaks and ruptured hydrants were common. The Camp Fire inferno spread at a speed of one football field per second, chasing everyone – including water system operators – out of town.</p><p>After the fires passed, testing ultimately revealed widespread hazardous drinking water contamination. Evidence suggests that the toxic chemicals originated from a combination of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/aws2.1183" target="_blank">burning vegetation, structures and plastic materials</a>.</p>
Pipes, water meters and meter covers after wildfires destroyed them. Caitlin Proctor, Amisha Shah, David Yu, and Andrew Whelton/Purdue University
Dangerous Contamination Levels<p>Benzene was found at concentrations of 40,000 parts per billion (ppb) in drinking water after the Tubbs Fire and at more than 2,217 ppb after the Camp Fire. According to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, children exposed to benzene for a single day can suffer <a href="https://engineering.purdue.edu/PlumbingSafety/resources/Benzene-Levels-in-Water.pdf" target="_blank">harm at levels as low as 26 ppb</a>.</p><p>The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends limiting children's short-term acute exposure to <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-03/documents/dwtable2018.pdf" target="_blank">200 ppb</a>, and long-term exposure to less than <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/national-primary-drinking-water-regulations" target="_blank">5 ppb</a>. The EPA regulatory level for what constitutes a hazardous waste is <a href="https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-06/documents/tclp.pdf" target="_blank">500 ppb</a>.</p><p>In early 2019, California conducted contaminated water testing on humans by taking contaminated water from the Paradise Irrigation District and asking persons to smell it. The state found that even when people smelled contaminated water that had less than 200 ppb benzene, <a href="https://engineering.purdue.edu/PlumbingSafety/resources/Dissipatiion-of-Burn-Related-VOC-From-Water.pdf" target="_blank">at least one person reported nausea and throat irritation</a>. The test also showed that water contained a variety of other benzene-like compounds that first responders had not sampled for.</p><p>The officials who carried out this small-scale test did not appear to realize the significance of what they had done, until we asked whether they had had their action approved in advance by an institutional review board. In response, they asserted that such a review was not needed.</p><p>In our view, this episode is telling for two reasons. First, one subject reported an adverse health effect after being exposed to water that contained benzene at a level below the EPA's recommended one-day limit for children. Second, doing this kind of test without proper oversight suggests that officials greatly underestimated the potential for serious contamination of local water supplies and public harm. After the Camp Fire, together with the EPA, we estimated that some plastic pipes needed <a href="https://engineering.purdue.edu/PlumbingSafety/opinions/Final-HDPE-Service-Line-Decontamination-2019-03-18.pdf" target="_blank">more than 280 days</a> of flushing to make them safe again.</p>
Plastic pipes can be damaged by heat and fire contact. Andrew Whelton / Purdue University
Building Codes Could Make Areas Disaster-Ready<p>Our research underscores that community building codes are inadequate to prevent wildfire-caused pollution of drinking water and homes.</p><p>Installing one-way valves, called backflow prevention devices, at each water meter can prevent contamination rushing out of the damaged building from flowing into the larger buried pipe network.</p><p>Adopting codes that required builders to install fire-resistant meter boxes and place them farther from vegetation would help prevent infrastructure from burning so readily in wildfires. Concrete meter boxes and water meters with minimal plastic components would be less likely to ignite. Some plastics may be practically impossible to make safe again, since all types are susceptible to fire and heat.</p><p>Water main shutoff valves and water sampling taps should exist at every water meter box. Sample taps can help responders quickly determine water safety.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9540d7e271306ed417112042a3efc9a4"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GnlrzI1wdAI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Smell Test Doesn’t Work<p>Under no circumstance should people be told to <a href="https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/press_room/press_releases/2018/pr122418_voc.pdf" target="_blank">smell the water</a> to determine its safety, as was recommended for months after the Camp Fire. Many chemicals have no odor when they are harmful. Only testing can determine safety.</p><p>Ordering people to boil their water will not make it safe if it contains toxic chemicals that enter the air. Boiling just transmits those substances into the air faster. "Do not use" orders can keep people safe until agencies can test the water. Before such advisories are lifted or modified, regulators should be required to carry out a full chemical screen of the water systems. Yet, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/aws2.1183" target="_blank">disaster</a> after <a href="https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlehtml/2017/ew/c5ew00294j" target="_blank">disaster</a>, government agencies have failed to take this step.</p><p>Buildings should be tested to find contamination. <a href="https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2020/Q1/study-your-homes-water-quality-could-vary-by-the-room-and-the-season.html" target="_blank">Home drinking water quality can differ from room to room</a>, so reliable testing should sample both cold and hot water at many locations within each building.</p><p>While infrastructure is being repaired, survivors need a safe water supply. Water treatment devices sold for home use, such as refrigerator and faucet water filters, are not approved for extremely contaminated water, although product sales representatives and government officials may <a href="https://undark.org/2019/09/19/camp-fire-california-drinking-water-carcinogens/" target="_blank">mistakenly think</a> the devices can be used for that purpose.</p><p>To avoid this kind of confusion, external technical experts should be called in assist local public health departments, which can quickly become overwhelmed after disasters.</p>
<div id="71cf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e059d199e8368d282a31601e372e4dda"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1204068265980547075" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">The Los Angeles City Council's Planning and Land Use Committee signed off on an effort to expand the city's fire-re… https://t.co/fP8Z8mUq7R</div> — IntlCodeCouncil (@IntlCodeCouncil)<a href="https://twitter.com/IntlCodeCouncil/statuses/1204068265980547075">1575907219.0</a></blockquote></div>
Preparing for Future Fires<p>The damage that the Tubbs and Camp fires caused to local water systems was preventable. We believe that urban and rural communities, as well as state legislatures, should establish codes and lists of authorized construction materials for high-risk areas. They also should establish rapid methods to assess health, prepare for water testing and decontamination, and set aside emergency water supplies.</p><p>Wildfires are coming to urban areas. Protecting drinking water systems, buried underground or in buildings, is one thing communities can do to prepare for that reality.</p>
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