At the end of this month, I’ll be closing this wonderful and crazy chapter of my professional life here at NRDC and opening a new one, consulting on efficient food systems (lest you think I’d stray too far). The decision is mainly a personal one, because any feign of balance that existed in my life with one small child went out the window now that I have two. So I’m off to follow the footsteps of the many working moms and dads before me who have tried to strike that perfect mix of family raising and freelance work. Now that I find myself at this juncture, I couldn’t resist reflecting a bit.
More than anything, I feel incredibly fortunate—for the opportunity to translate an obsession over wasting less food into a career, for the unbelievable network of people who share this passion, and for the upswell of activity across the food system to make change.
I would never had had this opportunity if it weren’t for NRDC. If you’re not all that close to the organization, you may not know how deep its bench is of strategic, strong, and caring individuals who dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to making this world a better place for all. It’s an inspiring and humbling place to work. I feel like I grew up here. I walked in eight years ago young, single, and hoping to gain experience in sustainable food issues. I leave married with two kids having testified in Congress, authored a book, launched our multi million dollar Save the Food campaign, appeared on John Oliver, and had a plethora of opportunities to grow and contribute my understanding of the food system from multiple points of view. NRDC's platform enabled this. I can’t thank the institution enough, and will always remain actively involved. In particular, I am so grateful for my fantastic boss Jonathan Kaplan who paved the way for me my whole time here, and for my fantastic NRDC colleagues who will carry the work forward: JoAnne Berkenkamp, Darby Hoover, Andrea Spacht, Margaret Brown, Ayaka Emoto, Nora Mango, and others.
Since beginning my work on wasting less food when it was a little known issue, I have been consistently amazed by how it has risen in priority and truly become a core component of the sustainable food picture. Nevertheless, we are still in the early days. I often think that the issue of wasting less food is today where energy efficiency was 20 years ago: the general case for it was made, but the solutions were not in place, and in fact the scale of the problem wasn’t even understood. We are just now laying the foundation on which solutions will be built for decades to come—figuring out how to measure it, how much of what is actually going to waste and why, and which interventions are most effective. At the same time, we are in the midst of an explosion of innovation which is sure to enable progress. I predict that even just five years from now, we’ll have a whole new suite of solutions and will be able to document the measurable dent we’ve made in the amount of food going to waste.
Wasting food is not something people wake up thinking about or intending to do—it tends to fly under the radar. But once awakened, people seem to really care about this topic. This goes for individuals as well as organizations. Over the past several years there has been a regular cadence of organizations declaring wasting less food a high priority—from IKEA to IDEO, Rockefeller Foundation to James Beard Foundation, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree to Dr. Oz, and Project Drawdown to the United Nations. And beyond that, a true army of food waste warriors is out there—people intensely concerned about the issue and wanting to take action in one way or another. I hear from them almost daily. They are not to be underestimated—because the devil is in the details on this issue, we need those ambassadors in every office, school, and kitchen to really get at it.
This summer, we at NRDC, in collaboration with Jonathan Bloom, published a second edition of our Wasted report. I wanted more than anything for the headline to be that less food is now being wasted, but we simply don’t have enough data to really know. What I can say for sure is that as a movement, we have started down the right path, and we have all the makings to succeed—the passion, the buy in, and increasingly, the investment. I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of it and look forward to continuing to tackle this with you all in the years to come.
All my best,