Top Takeaways from TEDxManhattan “Changing the Way We Eat”

Sustainable food is the biggest social movement since civil rights.

By Diane Hatz

On February 15 in New York City, The Glynwood Institute for Sustainable Food and Farming sponsored TEDxManhattan “Changing the Way We Eat,” a one-day independently organized TED event on sustainable food and farming. Three hundred plus people filled the Prince George Ballroom while over 14,000 computers tuned in to the live webcast. More than 130 groups around the country hosted viewing parties for friends and colleagues – Louisville, Kentucky, alone had 300 attendees at their event!

TEDxManhattan consisted of talks from 20 speakers, with topics ranging from cutting edge research from speaker Dr. William Li of the Angiogenesis Foundation on eating local sustainable food to prevent cancer to the realities of living next to a factory farm by activist and grandmother Karen Hudson. The day also included a talk led by Professor Frederick Kaufman on efforts by major corporations like Walmart to develop a sustainability index that they can control, and the importance of bringing the family back around the dinner table by speaker and host Laurie David. 

The event brought together various disciplines within sustainable food and farming, such as academics, researchers, health professionals, educators, farmers, chefs, advocates, foundations, nonprofit organizations and for profit companies – both as speakers and as audience members – to help strengthen dialogue and networking across the various disciplines. The event’s sustainable food curator, Mary Cleaver of The Cleaver Company, provided local, sustainable food, with many ingredients donated by local producers and businesses. 

The top takeaways of the event included:

  • As speaker Brian Halweil noted, food is not the problem – food is the solution. Solving our problems with food will go a long way to helping solve our problems with climate change, environmental destruction, deforestation, water scarcity, hunger, poverty, etc.
  • The food movement is arguably the biggest social movement since civil rights in the 1960s. It also has potential to do what the environmental movement failed to do – to mobilize and actually solve global problems. 
  • Worldwide, interest in sustainable food is exploding. An event that was not publicly promoted and had just over 200 seats for the audience received 800 applications in two months. Of the 14,000 computers tuned in to the event, more than 1,400 were from Brazil; 1,400 from Germany; over 1,100 from Italy, and even 738 computers were watching from India! 
  • There are solutions to problems with our food system – and there are people working on those solutions all over the globe. For example, new distribution systems for local food are being developed, as evidenced by speaker Michael Conard from the Urban Design Lab at Columbia University; artist and TEDxManhattan speaker Britta Riley is using global mass participation to fuel a movement toward growing food in windows; an effort is underway to stop absentee and dead farmers from receiving farm subsidy payments, as noted by speaker Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group.     

The final takeaway is that even though we have enormous problems with our food system, our health and the environment, spending an inspiring day with 300 sustainable food and farming innovators gives hope that our problems are surmountable. There are courageous, groundbreaking individuals like those who spoke at TEDxManhattan and those all over the country and world looking at problems and finding realistic solutions that many are implementing on their own. Now is the time for the rest of us to join them.

The full webcast for TEDxManhattan “Changing the Way We Eat” will remain online until 6pm on Saturday, February 26.  The talks will be online and on iTunes in approximately one month and will eventually go on ‘tour’ around the country. To view pictures from the event, view our Flickr stream. And, TEDxManhattan 2012 is already in the planning stages! For more information, please visit www.tedxmanhattan.org. 

About Diane Hatz

Diane Hatz is the Co-Founder & Director of The Glynwood Institute for Sustainable Food and Farming and Curator/Organizer for TEDxManhattan “Changing the Way We Eat.”

Talkback Readers: Do you have examples of ways the sustainable food movement is changing the way we eat? Or changing the way you eat? Share your stories on Talkback!

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