Good for plate and planet: “The future has to be delicious”

Food Tank President Danielle Nierenberg moderated a roundtable discussion, “Good for Plate & Planet,” with investor and climate-smart food strategist Sam Kass, Celebrity Chef Restaurateur Tiffany Derry, and Do Good Foods Founder Justin Kamine. As part of The Future of Food @ SXSW in Austin, Texas, organized by The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, Little Herds, The Cook’s Nook, and Food Tank, the conversation focused on how to make more sustainable, climate-friendly food the easiest choice for consumers.  

“Every day we hear that basically, the world is coming to an end. It’s a very disempowering narrative,” says Kass. “If we don’t make the solutions easy for people, in a way that fits into their lives and culture, we will fail. We cannot ask everybody to be a passionate foodie climate warrior.”

Do Good Foods is a new consumer packaged goods company aiming to tackle this challenge. The company created a closed-loop system to upcycle surplus groceries into nutrient-dense chicken feed, preventing food from going to landfill and creating a more sustainable animal protein system. Right now, Do Good Foods is converting 160 tons of surplus food from 450 grocery stores daily and has plans to replicate the model across the United States over the next five years.

According to Kamine, “if one out of every five pieces of chicken that we all ate was a Do Good Chicken, we’d solve food waste in the next five years.”

Kass agrees that the food sector is uniquely positioned to make a large amount of progress relatively quickly. And while policy has a large role to play in pushing for food systems change, the U.S. government itself doesn’t buy a lot of food directly, so scaling solutions that can solve some of these challenges can make a larger, more immediate impact.

“For the most part, the food system is a private-sector endeavor that’s shaped by culture…Scale really does matter,” says Kass. “If we don’t create solutions that are applicable to the majority of the population, we’re not having a big enough impact.”

Derry emphasizes that new, climate-friendly products must also be accessible and affordable for all eaters. “People shouldn’t need to choose between putting food on the table for their family and taking care of the environment,” she says.

Panelists agreed that these products also cannot ignore taste. “I don’t want a future that tastes bad,” says Kass. “The future has to be delicious.”

Much of this change is driven by consumer demand, so Kass emphasizes the importance of supporting mission-driven companies such as Do Good Foods when they launch. “It’s pretty simple. Support those doing the right thing. If that happens, everything is going to work out.” 

To start making more sustainable, climate-friendly choices, Derry recommends that consumers focus on making a plan. Figuring out what works for each individual and family includes budgeting, making a grocery list, and celebrating leftovers.

“Get creative in your own household. It starts with you,” says Derry.

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