Ten Questions with Raj Patel, Writer and Activist

Ten Questions with Raj Patel, Writer and Activist
From foodtank.com, by Raj Patel

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 Raj Patel, a writer, activist, and research professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin. He will also be speaking at the summit.

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

Raj Patel (RP): At the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle in 1999, the international peasant’s movement, La Via Campesina, blew me away. They had a beautiful vision and argument not only about what was wrong with food and agriculture at the moment but how it could be much better.

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

RP: The only way the food system can change is through organizing. We can’t shop our way out of this mess. Organizing takes time; it can be draining and hard. But there are three chances every day to commune and celebrate with those whom we love—over a table. 

FT: What innovations in agriculture and the food system are you most excited about?

RP: I love some of the new public policy ideas coming out of Brazil around banning advertising to children and linking rural producers and urban consumers in ways beneficial to both. 

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

RP: La Via Campesina. It wasn’t just one person; it was thousands of people with better ideas. More inspiring than a food hero, surely, is a legion of food heroes, each with their own ideas and visions for food sovereignty. 

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

RP: Partly, the fear of my children succumbing to the diseases that are already killing my parents’ generation. But also the joy that good food—food that is tasty, made sustainably, with dignity—can bring.

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

RP: Climate change. 

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

RP: Corporate power. 

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

RP: Recognize that you’re not just one person, that you’ve never been just one person, and that you’re far more powerful if we move together. 

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

RP: Corporate power in politics. 

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

RP: Poverty.

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 livestream 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 on September 22–23, 2016, please click HERE. To join us at Food Tank's Chicago, IL Summit on 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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