Holly Elmore – Holly worked in food service and kept thinking about those piles of food that were wasted all over the city of Atlanta, so she decided to do something about it. First, to understand how fantastic it is to tackle the problem of food waste, you have to understand the issue of food waste itself. In America alone, about 33 million tons of EDIBLE food ends up in the landfill. Obviously the major bummer about this is that people could be eating that food . Some of the food never leaves the farm because it doesn’t meet a certain “attractiveness standard” for grocery stores or it soils in transport but 60% of all that wasted food is from supermarkets and food service industries. But other than that, there’s the cost factor (it costs municipalities $1 billion annually ). Then when food waste sits in the landfill, it generates a crap ton of methane, contributing to global warming. So , Holly’s mission was to move toward zero waste in Atlanta. It started off with founding the Green Foodservice Alliance and moved from there to launching Atlanta’s Zero Waste Zone initiative. In the first year , the program diverted 2052 tons of food. The saved waste is used to feed people, make compost, and convert used cooking oil to biofuel. Pretty great stuff,right? holly is now the CEO of Elemental Impact , a national non-profit committed to creating industry sustainable best practices.
Cory Booker – Some might disagree with Cory’s place on this list. After the Newark Mayor took part in a very widely publicized food stamp (SNAP) challenge, people started to take note and wonder about Booker’s political aspirations. There were quite a few voices who felt the SNAP challenge was all publicity and not a genuine act for concern for those living on SNAP. There’s debate whether or not it does more harm than good when politicians pretend to be poor. I myself, even though I host an ongoing SNAP challenge , have conflicted thoughts about what the benefits really are. Overall, I feel that putting yourself in someone’s shoes can have a monumental impact on the way people come to understand and perceive a situation, even if it only gives a sense of one aspect of living in poverty . It was obvious from reading some of the commentary while Cory Booker was eating on a SNAP budget that people really did not get the issue of food scarcity in America.Because of that alone, I agree with Liz Dwyer when she says we can’t ignore the caveats to Cory Booker’s Food Stamp Challenge. For what it’s worth, I believe that Cory Booker is one who DOES genuinely “get it” and that can be instrumental in whatever future work he may do to change the face of food security for some in the U.S. He understands the unbalance in this cuntry that has led to so many of the issues we’re facing now and seems to well represent the 49%…or the 1%…or whatever new percent we’re using to talk about disparity these days.
Jim McGovern - Since we’re talking about altruistic politicians who get it, we have to talk about Jim McGovern. Since 1996, he has been that one guy in Congress constantly talking about hunger and poverty. No one really wants to listen to him, of course but he doesn’t seem to give a shit…he just keeps right on trying. McGovern has proposed that there should be “hunger czar” position to take on food issues. A great quote that sums up what he’s all about: “We need a policy to help feed senior citizens, young mothers,kids, everyone who is hungry. We need to lock everyone in a room till we have a plan to end food security.” Maybe lock them in that room without food so they get the picture a little better? Hmmmm….
Marion Nestle - I dare say that Marion Nestle is one person on the planet who understands the food system better than anyone else. The creation of the Food Studies program – an academic combination of nutrition, anthropology, biology and public health at NYU is her doing. She’s examined everything from the ethics of the food industry marketing practices and the dubious motives of politicians in office who have power to affect our food systems to the place food plays in our lives. …and how it’s all political. Her commitment to raising awareness so that the people don’t blindly accept the food system created by others who don’t have “The People’s” best interest in mind is commendable.
Brightfarms -Urban farming is a much needed resource in every city to provide fresh,local food without a carbon footprint and extra expense but the problem has always been space. Ted Caplow and Paul Lightfoot had this ingenious idea to utilize empty rooftop space to build hydroponic greenhouses. With their rooftop farms in Brooklyn, they can produce thousands of pounds of food year round AND cut out the unethical business of shady conventional farm practices and shipping costs. And ohhhh,yeah…creating local jobs,too! Their process also keeps some astronomical amount of storm water (I’ve lost my notes to tell you exactly how much) from going into local waterways.If you know of someone in your community trying to feed people, send me their story! It’s the small scale stuff that can be the most inspiring. Let’s get those stories out there.