Food Tank, in partnership with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, is hosting the 1st Annual Chicago Food Tank Summit on November 16, 2016.
This event will feature more than 40 different speakers from the food and agriculture field. Researchers, farmers, chefs, policy makers, government officials, and students will come together for interactive panels, networking, and delicious food, followed by a day of hands-on activities and opportunities for attendees.
Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Jim Slama, Founder and President of FamilyFarmed, who will be speaking at the summit.
Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?
Jim Slama (JS): FamilyFarmed, our nonprofit, played a key role in executing the Keep Organic Organic Campaign in 1998. It helped generate 275,000 comments to the USDA encouraging strong organic standards. To follow up, we wanted to do a buy-local campaign that year. At that point, we realized that there was not much local food serving the Chicago market. That prompted us to make it a focus for the organization, and within a few years, we created the Good Food EXPO, the largest and now oldest sustainable local food trade, financing conference, and food festival in the Midwest. Most of the region’s key stakeholders in the Good Food movement participate, including farmers, investors, food artisans, trade buyers, and more. By the way, we define Good Food as delicious, healthy, accessible food grown as close to home as possible by family farmers and food producers who use sustainable, humane and fair practices.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
JS: We need to support food and farm entrepreneurs to grow both the supply of and demand for Good Food. Ways to help include helping them build new and larger markets, get financing to expand their operations, and further develop their business skills and team.
FT: What innovations in agriculture and the food system are you most excited about?
JS: Indoor local food production is awesome and the Chicago area is an epicenter for it. With companies such as Farmed Here, Gotham Greens, MightyVine Tomatoes, and Living Waters Farm serving Chicago, plus a thriving network of urban agriculture operations, we are ground zero for scaling up year-round production. It’s going to be fun to watch it continue to grow.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero that inspired you?
JS: Michael Pollan is my favorite food hero. I have read all his books, and his depth and wisdom never cease to amaze me. I once wrote a story about the impact he has had on the food system in Conscious Choice magazine (which I published from 1988 to 2003) and emailed the final copy to him. A week later, he wrote back that he sent it to his parents and it helped them better understand the relevance of his work. That was one of the great honors in my life!
FT: What drives you every day to fight for the bettering of our food system?
JS: People continue to relentlessly punish the environment, and we need to stop doing so if future generations will be able to live decent lives on this planet. Good Food production is far more sustainable and there is ample evidence that well-executed organic agriculture sequesters vast amounts of carbon in the soil and offers a major solution to climate change.
FT: What’s the first, most pressing issue you’d like to see solved within the food system?
JS: We really need to build the supply of Good Food and make sure that everyone has access to it across all demographic and socioeconomic boundaries. We believe the health, environmental, and economic benefits of Good Food apply across society.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
JS: My friends Jeff and Jennifer Spitz created the film "Food Patriots," which advocates that people buy 10 percent more Good Food in their lives as a start to better eating. It’s a simple and unintimidating improvement that everyone can adopt and make a difference.
FT: What’s one issue within the food system you’d like to see completely solved for the next generation?
JS: We need to stop using sub-therapeutic antibiotics in seafood, animal, and dairy production. The amount of antibiotics fed to farm animals—either for growth promotion or to prevent diseases stemming from horrible living conditions they endure in many concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)—is excessive, and this needs to be stopped. As a result, in the United States alone, 23,000 people have antibiotic resistance, and there is overwhelming evidence that excessive use of antibiotics on farm animals contributes greatly to this health crisis.
FT: What agricultural issue would you like for the next president of the United States to immediately address?
JS: The next Farm Bill, scheduled to be crafted in 2019, needs to be the Food, Farms, and Jobs Bill. It needs to include additional support for Good Food, while also cutting out subsidies for bad food.
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Sponsors for this year's Food Tank Summit in Chicago include: Almond Board of California, Annie’s Inc., Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, Blue Apron, Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Clif Bar & Company, Driscoll's, Elevation Burger, Farmer’s Fridge, Food and Environment Reporting Network, Inter Press Service (IPS), Niman Ranch, and Organic Valley. More to be announced soon.
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