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Food and sustainability

Inspirational moments to build a new awareness

If we want to fight the climate change and promote sustainability we have to share information on agricultural techniques, from farmer to farmer, from citizen to citizen. The BCFN International Forum on Food and Nutrition that will take place in Milan, Italy, on December 1st, will be one of these opportunities to share and to break the barriers among the different stakeholders.

One of most inspiring moments I’ve experienced is sitting with a group of about 50 women farmers in India. I had spent the day at their organic farm, learning about the different practices they were using including rainwater harvesting techniques, vermiculture, and composting.
These women knew that I had traveled all over the world—more than 60 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America—interviewing hundreds of farmers, and after I finished asking them about their lives, they wanted to know what I could share from other farmers. They were really interested in what farmers, especially women farmers, were doing in sub-Saharan Africa to combat climate change.

It was then that I started to understand the importance of sharing information about sustainable agriculture techniques—in person, on-line, and from farmer-to-farmer. I also began to understand the importance of giving farmers and the innovations they’re creating voice that businesses, policymakers, and the funding and donor communities have to listen to.
That’s why I’m continually inspired by the people from across the globe—farmers in the Midwestern United States, policy makers in Italy, chefs in Senegal, business leaders from Hungary—who are craving more information about ways to make the food system more nutritious, healthful, delicious, and environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable.

Building networks
One way that Food Tank tries to connect the thousands of people we interact with is through our website and newsletter—we’re reaching more than 300,000 people every week with news about what’s working on the ground and amplifying the work of individuals and organizations who addresses food loss and food waste; the paradox of hunger and obesity; injustice and lack of humane practices in agriculture; and the need for food that is not only accessible in cities, but also affordable. We put a human face to these issues and use our role as story tellers to provide useful information and connections. In addition, we have more than half a million followers on our social media platforms, allowing us to connect instantly with our global audience.
Building networks is also a big part of BCFN’s work. BCFN YES! is a competition for young students and researchers from all over the world that was launched in 2012. It’s aim is to reward the best ideas about food and sustainability with grants to develop projects and concrete solutions around food and sustainability. After the completion of their research projects, the young researchers continue to collaborate through the BCFN Alumni Network. This is an important way for young researchers to connect with one another and share experiences and solutions.

These different ways to communicate help propel the original research. Writing what we do as an organization also amplifies the work of the 40 plus organizations that are our partners. We’re especially interested in getting funders and donors as well as policy makers to pay attention, which is why we’ve started convening Food Tank Summits across the United States and across the world. We’ve created a format that forces stakeholders—who normally wouldn’t be in the same room because they have differing viewpoints—to talk to one another about the best ways for making the food system more sustainable. Republican and Democratic Congress members have shared meals—and their opinions—during our summits; Monsanto executives and scientists have debated with food justice advocates; farmers have learned from students; and parents have been given a chance to interact with business and restaurant leaders who influence the way children eat.
These interactions not only create dialogue, but are the only way to move the food system forward. We’ve all been in our individual silos for too long. It’s time to break down those barriers and find the solutions we need to nourish our bodies and the planet.

Danielle Nierenberg
co-funder of Food Tank and member of the BCFN Advisory Board
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Food and sustainability

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