Seven Questions with Leslie Barcus, Executive Director of VegFund

From by Leslie Barcus
Seven Questions with Leslie Barcus, Executive Director of VegFund

Food Tank, in partnership with American University, is hosting the 2nd Annual Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C. on April 20–21, 2016. 

This two-day event will feature more than 75 different speakers from the food and agriculture field. Researchers, farmers, chefs, policymakers, government officials, and students will come together for panels on topics including food waste, urban agriculture, family farmers, farm workers, and more. 

Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Leslie Barcus, the Executive Director of VegFund. VegFund is one of the sponsors of the summit.

Food Tank (FT): What initiatives have you launched recently, or are planning to launch, that will further your company’s sustainability efforts?

Leslie Barcus (LB): VegFund’s work is grounded in the principles of vegan ethics. We aspire to spur widespread consumer adoption of plant-based foods and products in daily living. Since 2015, VegFund has been interacting with a broader global community committed to re-inventing business models, products, services, and government and consumer attitudes toward a more considered and thoughtful use of the earth’s resources. 

FT: What drives you and your company to push for sustainability?

LB: VegFund’s key driver is maximizing the well-being of animals. Our core programs encourage the public to consider the profound societal and environmental consequences and costs related to our human food systems and their heavy dependence on animal agriculture. VegFund asks people to consider whether the widespread practices of animal agriculture today are compatible with the planet that people would like to think they inhabit. Our planet is a place where an estimated 150 billion creatures are killed annually for food in a system that causes extensive collateral damage borne by other wild creatures and human communities everywhere.

FT: What is the biggest food related issue facing our planet right now? How is your company working to solve that problem?

LB: The biggest food-related issues facing our planet are the likelihood of global resource collapse related to our dependence on animal food production and the disturbingly inhumane practices of animal agriculture. At the same time, we fail to provide calories, land, and water equitably across the planet.

FT: Do you have any enlightening stories to share of collaboration between your business and other businesses or organizations that have changed your business practices?

LB: This Food Tank Summit is a prime example of how VegFund can meaningfully share how our programs are not only about animal welfare, but that animal agriculture is a part of a complex web affecting all of planetary life. The opportunity to interact and work with other businesses and organizations on this pressing global issue was an easy call, and it’s one that led VegFund to dedicate a share of its funding beyond its programmatic core of vegan activism toward these collaborative efforts.

FT: What changes would you like to see from the United States government to support sustainability in the food system?

LB: That subsidy and support choices for agriculture would be removed from the pressures of private interest; that our agricultural output would be measured by true-cost accounting, and that support would be redirected in ways to promote holistically positive outcomes for the U.S.

The accounting would include: 1) an examination of the total cost of inputs and negative externalities of the food system related to U.S. government subsidy, affecting human health, environmental resource use, pollution, and climate change; 2) a costing of the psychological and physical damage caused to a sentient creature caught up in the human food system; 3) the societal cost of losing biodiversity related to the structure of present food production; 4) the comparative costs of investing in a plant-based food system.  

FT: What was a turning point in your company and why?

LB: The global use of animal products for human consumption is forecast to grow exponentially in the developing world and remain “sticky” in the developed economies for years to come. Reducing global demand requires a multifaceted approach that vegan outreach alone cannot change in any foreseeable scenario.

VegFund appreciates that consumers and organizations are using a wide range of motivational approaches to changing the food system. Climate change, social justice, resource use, technology, and food production are just a few examples of areas in which VegFund finds meaningful and productive dialogue.

FT: What three things do you want your customers to know about your company?

LB: VegFund is a grant-making organization, and we are interested in proposals and partnerships that can bring system-wide ethics, health, and compassion to profits in human food systems.

We are eager to listen to all sides of the discussion about food systems.

We are hopeful and optimistic.

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.

To join us at Food Tank's São Paulo, Brazil Summit in September 2016, please click HERE. To join us at Food Tank's Sacramento, CA Summit September 22-23, 2016, please click HERE. To join us at Food Tank's Chicago, IL Summit November 16-17, 2016, please click HERE

Want to become a sponsor of the Food Tank Summit? Please click HERE

Want to suggest a speaker for one of the Summits? Please click HERE

Want to watch videos from last year's Food Tank Summit? Please click HERE

Sponsors for this year's Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C. include: Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, Chaia DC, Chipotle, Clif Bar, D.C. Government, Driscoll's, Edible DC, Elevation Burger, Fair Trade USA, Food and Environment Reporting Network, Global Environmental Politics Program of the School of International Service, Greener Media, Inter Press Service, Leafware, Niman Ranch, Organic Valley, Panera Bread, and VegFund. 

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