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The Food Revolution Debate: what people think and what the pandemic means

To mark the launch of our Food Revolution Barometer, in collaboration with Bloom Analytics and sponsored by Danone, Futerra hosted a webinar to explore and hear more about what people think the future of food will look like. Last Wednesday 30th June, our Co-founder Solitaire Townsend was joined by three of Futerra’s thought-leading friends in this space – Ethan Soloviev – Chief Innovation Officer at HowGood, Nigyar Makhmudova – Chief Growth Officer at Danone, and Leah Penniman – Co-Director at Soul Fire Farm and Author of Farming While Black, to discuss their thoughts on the future of food and explore the results revealed by the latest Food Revolution Barometer report.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw people stockpiling from supermarkets, meal-at-home kits, and delivery booming. But as we have adjusted to the ‘new normal’, people are also becoming more aware of what goes into their food and who it’s made by. We have seen increased awareness of the health implications of food, a rise in veganism, and a realisation of the social injustices of the food system, we can paint a picture of how human and planetary health intersect through the way we eat. In this digital event, we invited Ethan, Nigyar, and Leah to discuss with us the shifts they’ve experienced in their work because of the pandemic and the implications for each of them moving forward.

 

Here are some of our key highlights

 

“The connection to the people behind our food has increased significantly” – Solitaire Townsend, Co-founder, Futerra.

Before the pandemic, the public were already becoming more aware of the injustices within our food system. The conversation was evolving beyond just farmers and farm workers and becoming broader to include all labour in the food industry. These ‘invisible’ people and jobs came to be seen as essential. People began to question whether funds and investments were really reaching the farmers in need. However, as Solitaire explains in the webinar, during the pandemic “there was an explosion of conversation around standing in solidarity with farmers, whoever they are and wherever they’re from”.

For each of these food trends, the Food Revolution Barometer analyses where we need to take action and what we can do to achieve a better future of food. We have an opportunity to create a future where smallholder farmers are treated like the climate heroes that they are and can be. To create a world where not only people, but the whole food system stands by small holder farmers we need to ensure that farmers are empowered with resilient farming methods and celebrated and adequately compensated for their valuable work.

 

“There is an intrinsic connection between the health of planet and health of people and the centre point is food” –  Nigyar Makhmudova, Chief Growth Officer, Danone

A “plant-based” diet was once a polarising animal rights issue. However, over time, as people have become more aware of the link between food and climate, people began to adjust their diet to better fit the planet. As a planetary diet was becoming more mainstream, conversations were becoming less polarised and inflammatory. A more balanced and nuanced approach started to be championed over vegan absolutism. Plant-based foods became cemented as the central element of the planetary diet yet people sought compromises and balance to lessen the pressure and enjoy food again.

Consumers have become more informed and reasonable in their discussions, helping one another navigate veganism and vegetarianism, and insisting on the importance of self-determination. The conversation has shifted away from calling out individuals for their food choices, and have acknowledged the importance of figuring out what is right for each individual, including the need to indulge. The polarisation in the debate between meat eaters and ‘veggies’ has become less visible.

 

“It’s important that we center the indigenous peoples whose expertise created regenerative technology” – Leah Penniman, Co-Director at Soul Fire Farms

Building on indigenous frameworks and technologies, Dr. George Washington Carver at Tuskegee University came up with a lot of the processes we classify as regenerative. Some of the examples of these techniques that he was bringing into popularity in the late 1800s and early 1900s, included cover cropping, when you plant a plant just to feed the soil, you’re not actually harvesting it to eat. In the 60s, farmers and activists fought for the US to keep the “organic” label in order to maintain the integrity of the nuance of it. However, when the federal government took over organic, it became diluted over time. Our speakers discussed how the same thing is happening to ‘regenerative’ as a term.

 

 A huge thank you to Ethan Soloviev – Chief Innovation Officer at HowGood, Nigyar Makhmudova – Chief Growth Officer at Danone, Leah Penniman – Co-Director at Soul Fire Farm, as well as to our viewers for their probing and inspiring questions.

Inspired and want to know more? Access the full recording of The Food Revolution Debate: what people think and what the pandemic means here: https://bit.ly/3wimPlz

 

 

 

 

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