Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University, and creator and host of Planet Forward, opened this panel by emphasizing the importance of storytelling. According to Sesno, “Food is a story,” and it is important to “not focus on the negative, but on the invention and the intellect and imagination” coming out of food storytelling. This view is in the work of the seven panelists, whose careers are all focused around communicating about food.
The panel’s moderator, and a correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR), Allison Aubrey is incredibly familiar with food communication. A James Beard Foundation Award nominee, Aubrey uses “storytelling as a way to educate.” As she began the panel’s discussion, she asked everyone to view “food [as] a lens for all the important issues of the day.”
Roger Thurow, senior global agriculture fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, spoke about how food both outrages him and inspires him. He explained, “I’m outraged that we have brought hunger into the 21st century, when we are producing more food than ever; but at the same time, I am inspired that so many people are here.”
Sam Fromartz, author of The Baking Odyssey and editor-in-chief of The Food and Environment Reporting Network, said food commuters have a “simple job: to find stories and put them out in the world.” He went on to explain how his novel’s simple baking premise was able to jump start biodiversity conversations, proving that stories have an impact.
Vicki Robin, author of Blessing the Hands That Feed Us, uses her storytelling skills as a call-to-action guide. By sharing personal stories embedded with emotion, Robin explores her goal of making “50 percent of our food to be from 500 miles or closer by the year 2050.”
Erik Hoffner, contributing writer for Orion Magazine, touched on how to craft a food story through “start[ing] with the personal, go[ing] to the community, and then to the macro.” He added that food stories are intended for everyone because the audience includes everyone—everyone eats.
Director of the Center for Food Safety’s Cool Foods Campaign Diana Donlon addressed the state of soil. According to Donlon, not only does soil directly impact our health, but soil is “a global opportunity to solve water problems, hunger problems, and food problems.”
Sarah Buzogany, Food Access Planner for the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative, brought the panel full circle by discussing the importance of “considering the story” when trying to enact change. Buzogany reiterated Hoffner’s statement that everyone is part of the audience since they are “people who care about food.”