FoodTank: Planting the seeds of activism
New think tank started by Danielle Nierenberg and Ellen Gustafson aims to be one-stop resource for addressing hunger, obesity, food waste and an imperfect agricultural system.
Sat, Jan 19 2013 at 3:38 PM
When it comes to fighting the broken food system, there are many resources available, but there hasn’t been one go-to source on the Internet that brings them all together. FoodTank, The Food Think Tank, an organization and website that launched on Jan. 10, aims to be the one site where everyone — from policymakers to parents — can go to find the information that has been scattered until now.
FoodTank was co-founded by food activists Danielle Nierenberg and Ellen Gustafson (both pictured at right). The two began a partnership when they often found themselves at the same food conferences and discovered their shared concerns. They wanted to find ways to work together, and they realized they had both been looking for something like FoodTank. When they couldn’t find it, they decided to start it together. They combined their food activism and complementary skills — Nierenberg’s on-the-ground research in more than 35 countries and Gustafson’s entrepreneurism — to create what they were looking for.
FoodTank is the result of their collaboration. They hope to help fix the broken food system by being a voice in the fight for health-based agriculture, alleviating hunger and poverty, and stemming the tide of obesity.
"Hunger and obesity issues have a lot in common,” Nierenberg says. “We need to fix a food system that doesn’t adequately nourish on either end.” To create a successful food system, “nutritionists, farmers and researchers need to talk to each other to create a system that’s healthy, safe, sustainable and affordable.”
One of the main goals of FoodTank, Nierenberg says, is “changing the conversation about how we measure the success of our food system.”
“The emphasis has been on increasing yield and calories, but we’ve forgotten to focus on nutrition. There’s little focus on protein-rich crops like legumes or indigenous vegetables that are resistant to pests and diseases. Environmental sustainability has also been ignored.”
Nierenberg notes that most of the groups that give money to those trying to find solutions to food problems have funded new technologies and innovations but ignored the people working on smaller projects who implement practices that are already succeeding. These smaller projects are not getting the attention and the investment needed to bring the knowledge to light.
At first, FoodTank will focus on becoming a “clearinghouse of reports and information to make sure that people can find the information that exists.” When all of the information is in one place, Nierenberg hopes that FoodTank will become “a way for folks who aren’t talking to each other yet to get together.” Experts in various fields of the food movement will be able to find ways to collaborate and share their knowledge through FoodTank.
Further down the line, they hope to start raising money for what she calls a “Johnny Appleseed Fund.” The fund will offer small grants to organizations that are in the field, working with the people who focus on health-based agriculture, those who already have the knowledge but not necessarily the resources to spread it. They will encourage others to fund those organizations, too.
FoodTank hopes to reach a wide audience with compelling blogs and articles. The original works on the site will be for everyone involved in fixing the food system, from policymakers down to those who are just learning about what the problems are.
To involve as many people as possible, the FoodTank founders will be traveling and touring throughout 2013, looking for innovations that are working in communities. FoodTank also will plan events to bring together farmers, businesses, workers, nonprofits, local activists, academics, policymakers, industry, journalists, community organizations, and anyone who wants to be involved with fixing what’s wrong with our food system. The events will focus on discussion and problem-solving.
Through face-to-face interaction, the website and social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube, Nierenberg says FoodTank “will connect with people and interact with them in whatever way people want to receive Food Tank’s message.”
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