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Food Literacy Hero

Danielle Nierenberg
Food Literacy Hero

Danielle Nierenberg embodies the famous pop culture statement: not all heroes wear capes. A champion of environmental causes since she was a kid, Danielle co-founded Food Tank in 2013, a non-profit organization that highlights sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty, as well as advocates for food system change. Danielle also has written extensively on gender and population, the spread of factory farming in the developing world, and sustainable agricultural innovations. Her stalwart dedication to improving lives globally has us eggplant excited to name her our Food Literacy Hero!

“Danielle is a true broccoli boss, fighting for a better global food system with a powerful tool: knowledge. She’s one of the smartest people I know–and she’s generously sharing information far and wide,” Amber Stott said. “Once people understand the complexity of our food system, they can help fix it. Food Tank not only informs–they also celebrate change makers who are finding solutions, and sharing their methods. They’re building the base of a global food movement.”

Last year, Food Tank held a conference in Sacramento for which the Food Literacy Center coordinated a day-long farm-to-school bus tour with experts on gardening and cooking programs. Amber served on the steering committee for the conference and there is a mutual admiration between these two incredibly strong and brilliant women.

“Amber Stott is likable, passionate, and bad-ass,” Danielle said. “I can’t imagine not knowing her and her work now because it’s so important to not only inspire the next generation of agricultural leaders, but give them the skills they need to nourish themselves and the planet.”

As a child growing up in Defiance, MO surrounded by cattle, corn and soybeans, Danielle’s passion to save the environment was stoked by reading Frances Moore Lappe’s “Diet for a Small Planet.” She now knows the author and her daughter, Anna Lappe, personally and continues to be inspired by their work. Lappe had opened her eyes to environmental issues as a child but it wasn’t until Danielle was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic that she had an “ah-ha” moment about sustainable agriculture.

“I worked with farmers who really showed me the connections between nutrition, agriculture, and preserving natural resources,” Danielle said.

In addition to working on issues facing global health and nutrition, climate change, and the food system, Food Tank and its partner, Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition are also researching the psychology of sharing meals with others. Danielle explained that there is a sense of conviviality when people share a meal together. It helps people to build relationships through talking, laughing and arguing during a meal rather than eating alone at our desks or in our cars.

Danielle is now living the dream she had as a 16 year old. She is traveling the world, listening to people’s stories, and sharing those stories with others to bring attention to them. There are many young people with similar dreams and passions to help make the world a better place, and Danielle’s advice is that they seek their own paths based on their talents and interests.

“I encourage young people to find their place—as a writer, as a story teller, as a researcher, as a farmer, as an eater, and do what you can to make the food system better in your own kitchen, office, laboratory, board room, etc.,” Danielle said. “We all have a role to play in the food system and we can all be innovators and change makers. We all have to eat so we should use our forks, bodies, and minds to push for the kind of change to make food safe, healthy, and nutritious for everyone.”

When she was asked what ordinary people can do to help make the food system become more sustainable and fair, Danielle urged everyone to pay attention to what is happening in the political world.

“It’s not enough to vote with your fork. We also need to vote with our votes, especially in this election year and vote for the candidates locally and nationally who share our values for a better food system.”

As we sit down to laughter and joy-filled dinner with our friends and family, let’s raise a glass to toast January’s artichoke amazing Food Literacy Hero, Danielle Nierenberg! Her tenacity, intelligence, and strength of character inspire us all to be food heroes in our own right.

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