“We Can Change the Food System, Chicago!”

Yesterday evening, as record-setting rainfall continued to pour on Chicago, several members of the Real Food Real Jobs team had the opportunity to participate in a wonderful event, “We Can Change the Food System, Chicago!” Hosted by Food Tank, the packed Summit featured an incredible lineup of speakers working for change in every corner of the food movement—from planting gardens to fighting for justice for (and with) the workers who feed us.

Real Food Real Jobs’ Claire Tinley had the opportunity to present our recently-released report, “Putting Sustainability on the Table: Airport Workers’ Vision for $3 Billion of Food and Drink at O’Hare,” in which airport concessions workers shared their own recommendations for the future of food at the airport.  Their vision includes fresh, local and sustainable fare prepared from scratch, and a commitment from the city to invest in airport workers, some of whom have over 30 years on the job!

As we’ve learned in the weeks since the report was released, many passengers are more than happy to talk about their experiences and expectations of food at the airport, and our experience at the Summit was no different.  One frequent flyer had a simple request when it comes to fresh fruit at the airport: more variety!  If airports can provide Red Delicious apples and navel oranges, then why not a Pink Lady apple, or a pear?  The discussion also made its way to Twitter, where followers shared their own ideas for good food at the airport:

You can be a part of the discussion, too!  Click here to fill out a short survey about what food options you’d like to see at the airport.

Over the course of the evening, presenters spoke to the pleasures of eating good food and the value of protecting the environment that provides us with a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Many of them also spoke to the necessity of working for justice in the food system, and the sobering reality that cost is a very real barrier for families wanting to cook real food.  Perhaps presenter Seelah Muhammad summarized it best: if we want to truly transform the food system, then we need to include “race, place and power” in our discussions.  Yesterday at the Summit, it was clear that there is still much work left to be done, but also inspiring to see so many individuals and organizations committed to doing that work.

Many thanks to Food Tank (and its co-founder Danielle Nierenberg) for hosting the Summit!  Visit their website over the next several days for a recording of and interviews from the event, and check out some of the great dialogue during the event on Twitter by searching the hashtags #ChangeDinner and #ChangeFood.

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