FoodWorx, the Future of Food: Part II

FoodWorx PDX is an annual conference focused on how the world of food is evolving and the challenges involved in this evolution.  As laws change, as people change, as cities change, the world around them changes. This is part two of the conference regarding food insecurity, Chefstable, and My Street Grocery.

Dana Gunders of the Natural Resources Defense Council threw some hard-hitting facts at us.  I was stunned to learn that in the United States one in six people are food insecure.  What does “food insecure” mean? It means that on a daily basis, approximately 16 percent of Americans do not have access to food and are therefore hungry or in fear of starvation. On top of that, did you know that 40 percent of the food in this great nation is not eaten?  I was astounded by this fact.  That means that on your plate, you will eat 60 percent of your food, and the rest will be wasted while there are one in six people starving.  Dana pointed out, “If food waste were a country, then it would rank 3rd in Green House Gas emissions.  This food is actually the number one contributor to landfills, and because of it creates an incredible amount of methane.“

Did you know this simply means the food is at it's peak and not an expiration date?

Did you know this simply means the food is at its peak and not an expiration date?

Another interesting fact is that the size of a standard cookie has quadrupled in size since the 1970’s.  Again, compared to the 1970s, Americans waste 50% more food than they did back then.  So what can we personally do to remedy these issues of food waste?  Dana’s recommendations were the following: 1) create a shopping list and plan your meals;  2) avoid the massive bulk purchases;  3) use your freezer to store additional meals;  4) learn your labels and really know for a fact when your food is bad (the “Best by…” label simply means that the food is at its peak, not that it should be thrown out);  5) stop demanding perfect food—an incredible amount of food is thrown away for simple imperfections in color.

Following Dana’s talk came Kurt Huffman from Chefstable, discussing what sells and what doesn’t. Chefstable was created to allow chefs to focus on what they are good at—their passion, which is food—and not on running the business. He emphasized three principal components of making a restaurant “hot:”  1) Environment, creating a space that is comfortable;  2) Service, which is what is most written about;  enthusiasm is key, because, in Kurt’s words, “ it is better to be an enthusiastic idiot” than just an idiot;  3) Product–Yes, product is sadly the least important but still necessary.  Kurt then went on to talk about what investors look for:  1) Team—what they are really investing in; 2) Neighborhood—does it make sense;  3) The story—what is it. and is it likely to draw others;  4) The risk—because 90 percent of investments fail, are they willing to lose their money?

The conference concluded with some stunning storytelling videos by Rob of GLP Productions and an inspirational mobile grocery concept by Amelia Page of My Street Grocery aimed at providing fresh food access to all.

Rob Holmes, founder and chief storyteller of GLP Productions, talked about the four key elements of storytelling. Every story must have a purpose, a location, a journey, and a character. He used several videos to demonstrate each of these aspects. The one that I enjoyed the most was the emphasis on the key character of a story.  He or she doesn’t have to be a CEO; the key character just has to be a person who is authentic and easily relatable, and who has a great story to tell.

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Amelia Page, a young twenty-something, came on stage and talked about the fact that over 23 million Americans don’t have access to fresh food, creating food deserts.  Her solution?  It was to create a mobile grocery truck called My Street Grocery, which visits these food deserts and provides neighborhoods with a chance to buy local, seasonal fresh food at reasonable prices. She uses this as a way to educate people on food as well as to help them with planning their meals through meal kits that cost approximately $2 to $3 per serving. This enables people to eat healthy without having to rely on unhealthy food alternatives such as fast food restaurants. She started in Portland and hoping to expand this to other food deserts in the United States.

Overall, this conference was a very interesting and eye-opening event in which I was motivated to “heed my call,” eat at home more with local food, and waste less, and, when I feel adventurous, visit and support the local food vendors in Cartopia.

Thank you for joining me. For more information on the event visit: http://www.foodworxconference.com/

April Yap-Hennig is a wine lover and marketer at heart. She is co-founder and owner of Epicurean Media, a beverage and food artisan public relations and marketing consultancy as well as writes for the Sacred Drop Channel at www.sacreddrop.com. For more information on April, please visit her website www.about.me/aprilyaphennig and www.epicureanmedia.com.