On Feb. 28, several members of the FRN National team attended the Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C. Our team at FRN, the largest student movement against food waste and hunger in the nation, felt particularly drawn to the summit’s theme: “Cultivating the Next Generation of Young Food Leaders.”
In addition, FRN’s Executive Director, Regina Northouse, was invited to speak at the summit on a panel titled, “Advocating for Future Farmers and Eaters.” Northouse said that one thing everyone can do to support farmers is to stop wasting the food they work so hard to produce. "What Food Recovery Network is trying to do is trying to ensure that the food that we do grow in this country doesn't go to waste," Northouse said. "Currently 10 million tons of food that our amazing farmers are growing is either left on the vine, tilled underground – just doesn't get to the people who need it most."
After the event concluded, the FRN chapter at George Washington University recovered 140 pounds of surplus food from the summit and donated it to an on-campus food pantry, making it a Food Recovery Verified event. If you want to verify your next event, apply here or learn more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our team had an incredible time learning from and speaking with the food industry professionals at Food Tank. Below are some of our thoughts and takeaways from the summit.
1. we need creative solutions to improve our food system
"It’s not every day you get to sit in a room among political figures, business owners, local farmers, and other key players in the food system. Food Tank excels at bringing people together for meaningful conversation, and I thoroughly enjoyed attending the D.C. summit. Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director of Sustainability at George Washington University, moderated the first panel: “Growing Farmers Around the Globe,” and asked the panelists: “If you had a magic wand, how would you use it?” Each woman shared a different idea — while focusing on realistic, tangible solutions — like building infrastructure so farmers can get their crops to market or creating equitable access to resources for people of color. This is a group of problem solvers, and they’re working to share their skills with those trailblazing new paths."
– hc, Program Manager
2. young farmers and activists are the future
"I greatly appreciated the summit’s emphasis on cultivating the next generation of leaders and more specifically, the Young Farmer Spotlight. Each presenter’s dedication to farming reminded the audience that this is not just a profession, but a lifestyle. Furthermore, it’s the origin of our food, and these young leaders represent the future of that movement. Their stories motivated me to learn more about the farming industry and develop a relationship between the food I eat and where it comes from."
– Paul Sherman, Program and Resource Development Fellow
"I particularly appreciated hearing from the keynote speaker, Haile Thomas, who is the founder and CEO of The Happy Organization. Her story really demonstrated the value of including young people in the conversations surrounding food and showcased the amazing change they will go on to create."
– Sam Yates, Research & Outreach VISTA
3. We need to make farming a sustainable career path
"Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director of Sustainability at George Washington University, discussed successes over the past decade in starting conversations about food systems and the sustainability of agriculture. But her main point was that, despite elevating the issue, there has yet to be tangible, positive change. Her goal is to work towards creating long-term, sustainable careers in agriculture."
– Paloma Sisneros-Lobato, Food Recovery Verified VISTA
4. food justice is personal
"I was really struck by the story of Violet King, an urban farmer with Dreaming Out Loud in Washington, D.C. “I got involved in the food system because I know what it’s like to be a mother and have children and to have limited access to healthy food,” King said. Through urban gardening and low-cost CSAs, she has been able to improve access to high quality fruits and vegetables for her food insecure neighbors. King’s deeply personal knowledge of the food system and fierce advocacy for the folks in her community is incredibly inspiring."
- Hayley Brundige, Communications and Partner Engagement Fellow
5. food can be political...and politicians can be farmers, too
"It was interesting to hear a conversation about agriculture and food policy between a Democrat from the East Coast, Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and a Republican from the West Coast, Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA). As the moderator, Helena Bottemiller Evich from POLITICO, pointed out, not many people realize that some members of Congress are farmers themselves. While Rep. Pingree agreed that many issues related to food and agriculture can attain broad bipartisan agreement in Congress, “nutrition is where we really kind of get in disagreement, and it tends to be about SNAP...and these things get very volatile and controversial.” Notably, she mentioned the Trump Administration’s idea of sending SNAP recipients “harvest boxes” as being particularly 'problematic.'"
– Hayley Brundige, Communications and Partner Engagement Fellow
6. food businesses can make an impact
"The afternoon 'Fireside Chat' featuring founders of companies like Honest Tea, MOM’s Organic Market, and Sir Kensington’s, was very interesting because of how it differed from other chats and panels. It sparked thoughts about the many ways food businesses can impact the food system. Some businesses support local farmers by only utilizing those local ingredients in their products, while others encourage organic farming practices by supplying only organic foods in their stores. Food businesses can even donate surplus food to a local non-profit to divert food waste from landfills and ensure that the resources that went into producing such food is used and not lost.
"These businesses can even gain recognition for implementing some of these practices. Food Recovery Network's program, Food Recovery Verified, provides recognition for businesses who do such work. It is programs like these that will continue to support the evolution of best practices for all food businesses."
– Paloma Sisneros-Lobato, Food Recovery Verified VISTA
Our team had an incredible experience at the Washington, D.C. Food Tank Summit. To learn more about how you can attend or host a watch party for the two upcoming Food Tank summits in Seattle and Boston, visit our page.