How Do We Transition to a More Sustainable Food System?

Danielle Nierenberg
In advance of tomorrow’s “Resetting the Food System” Summit co-hosted by the Barilla Foundation and Food Tank, we asked 30+ speakers to share inspiring insight on how to make the transition to a more sustainable food system. You can find more details about the event here:

Here is what they told us (in alphabetical order):
“We need a positive movement to accelerate, empower, refine, and design a more sustainable future, and raising awareness in people – companies, citizens, institutions – that another future is possible.” -Guido Barilla, Chairman, Barilla Group; Chairman, Barilla Foundation.
“The possibilities to improve the food system are very real, but they’re not automatic. We need to hold each other accountable to improve individual behaviour and the world.” -Chris Barrett, Professor and Co-Editor-in-Chief of Food Policy, Cornell University.
“As we build our food systems back up, we all need to work together to build them better so we can realize our shared ambition of a future free from hunger.” -David Beasley, Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP).
“If we want to make a difference, we need to look outside the common bedfellows and find the partners that will drive common policy.” -Dr. Sara Bleich, Professor, Public Health Policy, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“Chefs can make a difference by what they choose to serve at their tables, how they talk about ingredients and ideas, and what they teach their teams.” -Massimo Bottura, Chef and Owner, Osteria Francescana.
“Food is one of the most powerful interventions in the world. “It’s intimate, it’s necessary, and it connects all of us.” -Kyle Cherek, VP, Communications, The Dohmen Company Foundation.
“Chefs are bridge builders, bringing people together through food in a genuine, organic way.” -Bobby Chinn, Chef; Television presenter; Restaurateur.
“To reset the food system, we need to double down on the progress we saw in 2020 and prioritize novel solutions, adaptability, and resiliency.” -Barney Debnam, WW Agribusiness Solutions Director, Microsoft.
“We must use today to ensure we’re fully prepared to make 2021 the year that changes everything.” -Sandro Demaio, Founder, Sandro Demaio Foundation, and Australian TV personality.
“Every company needs to be aligned with its purpose. Our purpose is to nourish people and the planet and our focus is there.” -A.C. Gallo, President and Chief Merchandising Officer, Whole Foods.
“I’m going to continue to fight for food, social, and racial justice. A restaurant can be a great platform to do that.” -Tanya Holland, Chef and Owner, Brown Sugar Kitchen.
“It is possible to produce enough food and take care of the environment. What we need is political will and societal transformation.” -Gilbert Houngbo, President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
“Nutritious food starts on the farm, it starts in the soil, and it starts in the seed. So we need to rethink the way we grow food to be more regenerative for the land, the climate, and human health.” -Dr. Mark Hyman, American physician and New York Times best-selling author.
“I don’t want to teach people how to cook. I want to encourage women and teach women how to lead.” -Asma Khan, Chef and Owner, Darjeeling Express.
“Eating is the most intimate act. Why are we not paying more attention to it? And how can we join together to redraw the narrative of food?” -Peggy Liu, Chairperson of the Joint U.S.-China Collaboration on Clean Energy (JUCCCE), World Economic Forum.
“This year has shaken up a lot of notions about how food systems work and there’s going to be a more resilient supply chain coming out of 2020.” -Emily Ma, Food Systems Lead, X (The moonshot factory).
“We must acknowledge the diversity of farming systems across the globe. Everyone has a part to play in building a better food system.” -Jannes Maes, President, CEJA, European Council of Young Farmers.
“We need to think of ourselves as part of the environment. Nature is not our property.” -Filomena Maggino, Advisor of the Italian Prime Minister; Coordinator of the Steering Committee “Benessere Italia.”
“We need to rebuild the restaurant industry with a far more evolved social contract than we had at the start of the year.” -Danny Meyer, Founder and CEO, Union Square Hospitality Group.
“The current crisis is showing us we went wrong somewhere along the way. We need to rethink the whole food system to move forward.” -Edie Mukiibi, Vice President, Slow Food International, and Co-Founder, Developing Innovations in School and Community Cultivation Project.
“The small victories are giving me hope. We have the grassroots energy to transform the food system so it works for all of us.” -Leah Penniman, Co-Founder, Soul Fire Farm, and author, Farming While Black.
“There’s no one size fits all approach: this is a global problem that requires many local solutions.” -Andrea Renda, Senior Fellow, CEPS; Professor of Digital Innovation, College of Europe, Brussels.
“We have to find a new balance with the planet and we need an intergenerational alliance to make this happen.” -Walter Ricciardi, Scientific Adviser to Italy’s Minister of Health and Member, European Advisory Committee on Health Research, World Health Organization.
“Let’s come together, talk about our visions, and figure out where we’re headed as a global community.” -Ruth Richardson, Executive Director, Global Alliance for the Future of Food.
“Changing the food system is a complex challenge, but the first step is to know where we want to go, and that’s toward a healthy diet produced with sustainable agriculture.” -Jeffrey Sachs, Professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development, Columbia University; Director, U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN SDSN).
“Changing the food system is essential to fight inequalities and climate change: we need both political will and resources to create the right incentives.” -Elly Schlein, Vice President, Emilia-Romagna, Italy.
“We have to change. We have to learn. We have to increase resilience in the food system. That’s the future.” -Maximo Torero, Chief Economist, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“Technology won’t save us, but it can help facilitate the cultural shift we need to build a resilient food system.” -Didier Toubia, Co-Founder and CEO, Aleph Farms in Israel.
“The true opportunity lies in making our smallholder farms sustainable because that improves ecosystems health and brings about grassroots level prosperity for billions of people at the bottom of the pyramid.” -Satya Tripathi, UN Assistant Secretary-General, Head of the New York Office, UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
“A transition to a more sustainable food system can only come about with an emphasis on regional production, shorter supply chains, and a shift toward healthier diets.” -Janusz Wojciechowski, European Commissioner for Agriculture.
(Danielle Nierenberg is President, Food Tank, and can be reached at