The Future of Food

Chicago Market Owner #148 and writer Annette Mambuca joined  food writers, policy wonks, activists, culinary professionals and everyday foodies at a one-day conference on "The Future of Food," sponsored by Edible magazine this October. She found a few other Chicago Market Owners there, too! Here's her terrific summary of what they learned.

So what does the future hold?

If you’re a Chicago Market Owner, the answer is clear. Sustainable. Local. Transparently sourced. Community-minded. Equitable. Delicious (natch!).

Our co-op may be well on the way to amending some local ills, but nationally and globally there are still some fairly formidable forces to overcome.




* Americans waste 40% of food grown and purchased, yet one in seven Americans visit a food bank weekly

* 1 in 8 people worldwide do not get enough food

* 90% of our table fish have been taken out of the ocean and 40% of fish caught are wasted (“accidentally” caught and then tossed by commercial operations)

* Lobbyists touting less-food-friendly policies wield tremendous political power

* Technology, while inherently good, has advantaged and advanced multinational food operations and global distribution channels

* Human labor and animal welfare abuses abound 

As the day’s speakers testified, our individual food habits and decisions matter decisively, both in terms of helping the planet, as well as sharing our perspective and knowledge with unlike-minded folks in our local sphere of influence. And of course, the future of food is also reliant on the government policies and corporate decisions our actions and activism help to drive.

Keynoter Katherine Miller, Director of the Chef Action Network, a Food Policy Advocacy program of the James Beard Foundation opened the meeting with another potent reminder: “Food is essential to life, but it is also essential to economies. Local food sales totaled an estimate of $6.1 billion in 2012. In some places, local demand is outstripping our ability to provide it in a local way.”

That fact prompts an apt comment from Chicago Market's Board President and Owner #3, Grant Kessler.

“If you’re concerned about the future of food and the planet…if you want to make and help others make better environmental decisions…if you want to keep good jobs and money in our community…joining Chicago Market is the opportunity for you and all of us to make a positive contribution to the future right here in Chicago.”

As important as local is to the conversation, systemic change means we need corporations and industry at the table as well. Given their scope, they hold serious keys to sustainably feeding the 9.7 billion people that will be on the planet in 2050.

Good things are happening in that regard. As reported in the New York Times, McDonald’s decision to phase out the use of eggs housed in cages – partly the result of consumer pressure – has multiple downstream implications. Those include several states enacting regulations on how laying hens are kept, fast-food rivals and other food suppliers considering similar changes and the eventual reduction in the price of cage-free eggs sold to consumers.

Chicago Market Owner #619 and CEO of Next Bites Eloise Karlatiras, who was part of the panel discussion, “In Pursuit of Protein,” believes that individual efforts can prod large-scale change.

“I think millennials will play a huge role in imagining and contributing to a new domestic economy that supports healthy, sustainable and equitable food production,” she says.

“People may think they have little control over the direction of our food system. But humans have always sought out innovative answers to complex questions. Together, we can gently shift the way we connect with food and the ways in which it is grown and raised.”

The day ended with a wine tasting by sustainable vintner Christopher Silva from St. Francis Winery, so it seems fitting to end this article with a toast to “the future of food.”


Looking for more about "The Future of Food"? Check out these other organizations, articles and books featured at the conference.
Telling our Stories
Edible Communities Publications
Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky
Life of a Strawberry
Cage-free eggs
Policy advocacy
James Beard Foundation Chef’s Book Camp for Policy & Change
Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Food Democracy Now
St. Francis Winery
Food-Conscious Businesses, Activists and Venture Capitalists
Eloise Karlatiras, CEO, Next Bites
Bruce Sherman, Chef, North Pond
S2G Ventures
Beyond Meat: The Future of Protein

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