Andrew Zimmern, the former chef and popular Travel Channel host, and Josh Tetrick, CEO of Hampton Creek, returned to South by Southwest Interactive this year to follow up on a conversation they’ve been having for years about how to transform the food system.
Last year, the pair presented together at SXSW about eating less meat, but this year, the subject was the global food system at large, the problems it faces and how innovation might be able to solve some of those problems.
“Eating well is a class issue,” Zimmern said. We talk about people in the U.S. not having access to food, but that problem is exacerbated in countries where there is civil or political strife, or mass migration issues.
“People are starving because of distribution, but they live in parts of the world where everything grows year round,” Zimmern says.
Tetrick, whose company had a high-profile run-in with the FDA last year, had lots of encouragement for the maker and entrepreneurs in the room.
“There are so many opportunities for social good in food entrepreneurship, Tetrick says. “Not enough smart people who want to be makers are looking at the world of food. You can make money and do good at the same time.”
After receiving questions from attendees about his thoughts on equitable nutrition, food waste and training new farmers, Tetrick pointed out that all of those questions represent problems in food that need more people trying to solve.
For example, growing different kinds of crops -- and creating market opportunities to use those crops -- could help vulnerable communities handle climate change and disruptions to the market.
“We can hire farmers in third- and fourth-world countries to grow the crops needed to make things like Hampton Creek products and sell it at a price that low-income Americans can afford,” Tetrick said.
Tetrick said that although he understands why people rally around a single food issue, such as genetically modified crops, we can spark greater global change when we understand and think about the food system as a whole, and from perspectives that are not our own.
Zimmern and Tetrick, who are both white, addressed their privilege and talked openly about the race and class implications of this conversation about food. Even though they both operate in a food world driven by people who already have money and access to just about any kind of food imaginable, they were persuasive in their passion for making food more equitable for everyone. Tetrick: “How do we make it easy for a single mom in Alabama on food stamps to eat well. We think about that every day.”
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