April 22, 2021

The Seeds of Change – Food Thoughts from Food Systems Heroes

The United Nations Food Systems Summit – to be held for the first time ever in September 2021 – is intended to be a catalytic moment for reshaping the way the world produces and consumes food. At a time when 820 million people are hungry or undernourished, 255 million people are suffering from diet-related illnesses and one-third (34%) of greenhouse gas emissions come from our food system, a “catalytic moment” sounds both urgently needed and incredibly daunting.

But, just as an orchard of trees or a plot of produce starts just one seed at a time, so too can transformative change. As individuals, we can sow the seeds of food systems change in our own communities. The “how” and “why” for this can look different for everyone. Whether it’s volunteering, gardening, marching, researching – these acts provide both the realization and resolve that change is within reach. Individual actions fuel collective commitments, and should happen alongside the essential, systemic change that roots out inequities that permeate our food system.

Today, Earth Day, we’re called upon to “Restore our Earth” and one way to do that is by reconnecting with food as a Food Systems Hero. Food Systems Heroes feed into the United Nations Food Systems Summit and will help sustain the Summit’s momentum beyond September 2021. Free to join and open to everyone, it couldn’t be easier to get involved by signing up here.

I chatted with the Food Systems Heroes of FoodMinds to see what joining this community meant to them.


What motivated you to sign up to be a Food Systems Hero?

“My FoodMinds colleagues – whose passion for evidence-based food & nutrition guidance inspires me every day.” – Michelle Kijek, Senior Vice President, Group Lead

 “I signed up to be a Food Systems Hero because I believe healthy and sustainable foods should be accessible and affordable for all. A person’s income should not dictate whether or not they have access to nutrient-dense and sustainably-produced food.” – Moira Allison, Account Supervisor

 “Food systems that support cultural diversity, accessibility and resilience have never been so important for global health and local communities. I became a Food Systems Hero to be part of this important dialogue and to support transformative actions for a sustainable, healthy future.” – Allison Mikita, Vice President

 “Food systems can be part of the solution to the climate crisis while improving access and choices for healthy, affordable food across the globe. Given the scale of the challenges we face, there is a need for Food Systems Heroes at an individual, community, national, regional and global level. I’m excited to be part of the dialogue with a broad range of food supply chain stakeholders.” – Katie Padilla, Director, Co-lead of Healthy, Sustainable Food Systems team


What does it mean to you to be a Food Systems Hero?

“Joining the ranks of other trailblazers to achieve change! One person alone can make a difference, but many together can move mountains.” – Erin DeSimone, Senior Vice President, Group Lead


What’s one way that you’re committing to learning about or working to achieve better food systems in your community?

“I believe we can all play a part – however small or large – in bettering our local, national and global food systems. For me, that starts in my own backyard – with my own garden. So often it feels that the ingredient missing in our current food movement is human connection. I can’t wait to share the fruits of my labor with my neighbors, friends and family and apply the skills and knowledge I’ve learned at a local youth gardening organization this summer.” – Katie Pawelczyk, Senior Account Executive

“This year, I would love to learn more about local farmers, producers and food artisans near me in the SF Bay Area. As we move into a post-pandemic world, it’s especially important to continue supporting our local businesses and economies. I plan to research volunteer opportunities at diversified farms nearby – the dream would be to find an integrated crop-livestock operation!” – Carla Curle, Senior Account Executive


What are your hopes for the Food Systems Summit?

“I hope the Summit will address and include perspectives from all points of the food value chain, with a comprehensive assessment of ALL data and outcomes affecting a healthy, sustainable food system.” – Michelle Kijek, Senior Vice President, Group Lead

“I hope that in addition to game-changing solutions and commitments, there is a paradigm shift for how the world thinks and talks about sustainable food system towards one that is inclusive and understanding of the complexities. I also hope that the momentum continues across sectors through collaboration, partnerships and knowledge sharing.” – Carla Curle, Senior Account Executive

“I am hopeful that by bringing together a broad range of stakeholders from across the globe, each with different solutions to offer, the Summit will really drive food systems changes and provide individuals, communities, countries and regions with the tools and resources needed to meet diverse needs. I hope we can look back at this Summit in a few years and see this as a turning point where dialogue evolved to action that drove rapid progress toward tackling the climate crisis and improving access to affordable nutritious foods for people across the globe.” – Katie Padilla, Director, Co-lead of Healthy, Sustainable Food Systems team

 As Food Systems Heroes and on behalf of clients committed to food systems transformation, FoodMinds is actively engaging in the Food Systems Summit. Feel free to drop me a line at [email protected] if you’d like to learn more, and sign-up here to receive our Global Foodscapes, our Food & Nutrition Affairs’ forecast e-newsletter. Our next edition will be focused on the Food Systems Summit and other insights from across the global food policy landscape.


Elizabeth Reilly is a Senior Director at FoodMinds and sits in our Washington D.C. location.

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