Nine Questions with Angela Mason, Associate Vice President of Windy City Harvest

Kate Reed

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, policymakers, 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 Angela Mason, Associate Vice President of Windy City Harvest at the Chicago Botanic Garden, who will be speaking at the summit.

Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?

Angela Mason (AM): My involvement in food and agriculture was an accident! My goal while finishing my masters degree was to obtain a job at a public garden for a couple of years, get some experience, and then go back to school for a masters in landscape architecture. The only opening at Chicago Botanic Garden was in community gardening, starting the pilot of our Windy City Harvest Youth Farm program. That was in 2003. The first year was fraught with challenges and, at the same time, allowed for tremendous growth. I saw changes in each of the teens working with me and I saw change in myself, both in terms of my attitudes towards food and in the food system. If you would have told me 20 years ago that I would be farming in Chicago with teens, I would have thought you had lost your mind. Now I couldn't see myself doing anything else. 

FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system? 

AM: We need to get everyone, regardless of race, sex, or socioeconomic status, to the table to discuss our broken food system. When we have an open dialogue, we are better able to access the areas that can be fixed easily and those that have more serious work to be done. We can't access the opportunity or the problem until that happens. 

FT: Can you share a story about a food hero that inspired you? 

AM: My grandfather was a farmer at heart, a fireman by trade. He turned his entire yard into a garden and grew everything he could possibly grow and then some. I used to spend hours in the garden with him. He was most proud of his apricot tree that he started from seed. I think spending that time with him in the garden helped to provide me with a love and respect for nature that I may not have had otherwise. 

FT: What drives you every day to fight for the bettering of our food system?

AM: Seeing the change in attitude towards food, health, overall wellness, and the environment in each and every one of our program participants. It gives me hope that we can overcome some of the challenges in our most underserved communities.

FT: What’s the biggest problem within the food system that our parents and grandparents didn't have to deal with?

AM: The biggest problem today is the impact of corporate interest/power and genetically modified organisms ingrained in our food system. 

FT: What’s the first, most pressing issue you’d like to see solved within the food system? 

AM: Food access.

FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?

AM: Support your local food economy by buying local produce at farmers markets, grocery stores, and restaurants that source locally. We need to also look at the amount of food waste we contribute to each and every day. 

FT: What’s one issue within the food system you’d like to see completely solved for the next generation?

AM: I would like to see hunger and food access issues be a thing of the past. Diet-related disease, food insecurity, and hunger should be completely eradicated.

FT: What agricultural issue would you like for the next president of the United States to immediately address?

AM: Help to ensure everyone has equal access to fresh, organically grown produce regardless of socio-economic status. 


To find out more about the event, see the full list of speakers, and purchase tickets, please click HERE. Interested participants who cannot join can also sign up for the live-stream HERE.

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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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