100 episodes

The Leading Voices in Food podcast series features real people, scientists, farmers, policy experts and world leaders all working to improve our food system and food policy. You'll learn about issues across the food system spectrum such as food insecurity, obesity, agriculture, access and equity, food safety, food defense, and food policy. Produced by the Duke World Food Policy Center at wfpc.sanford.duke.edu.

The Leading Voices in Food Duke World Food Policy Center

    • Health & Fitness
    • 4.9 • 11 Ratings

The Leading Voices in Food podcast series features real people, scientists, farmers, policy experts and world leaders all working to improve our food system and food policy. You'll learn about issues across the food system spectrum such as food insecurity, obesity, agriculture, access and equity, food safety, food defense, and food policy. Produced by the Duke World Food Policy Center at wfpc.sanford.duke.edu.

    The Power & Potential of Co-ops for Economic Development Through Food

    The Power & Potential of Co-ops for Economic Development Through Food

    Today, we're talking to a change management leader, a person who is advancing social justice through food co-ops. Darnell Adams co-leads Firebrand Cooperative, a new consultancy helping nonprofits, cooperatives, and other socially responsible organizations throughout the US. In a recent article, she wrote for "Nonprofit Quarterly" that a food co-op isn't a luxury item, but the lifeblood of their communities.
    Interview Summary
    So let's jump right in. You've written that a new wave of leaders is organizing in communities, Black communities, Latinx, Indigenous, rural, immigrant communities, and communities lacking in wealth overall. How have your experiences led your work in supporting economic development through food?
    Yeah, it's such an interesting journey I've been on. So I'm going to step back just a minute to say how I landed in the places that I've started to work. Certainly my interest in food is shaped by my experience in the world and my childhood experiences. My mother, who is an immigrant, my father, who's an immigrant - their relation to food and the African diaspora. I grew up understanding what food meant in terms of identity, in terms of nutrition, etc. So I had my own thoughts about food certainly from those experiences, and also had my own business as a caterer for many years. I had that understanding of what it means to be a small business, and launching a business and all of the trials and tribulations of doing that. And in the process of running that business I came to find a location where I could situate that business in a way that was affordable to me using a shared kitchen space that was located in Boston, Massachusetts. Then I really started to develop a broader understanding of some of the economic considerations, not just mine, but many of the producers were having in terms of how to run a viable business, and what supports were needed or missing in their experiences. It's kind of a long story and I won't get into it how it happened, but it so happened that at a certain point, I began a new career as managing director of that shared space kitchen. That was a whole leap in terms of thinking about not just my small catering business, but supporting many businesses, whether they be food trucks, caterers, producers of something that was a shelf staple product or something like that. Many of those business owners were immigrants, many were women or otherwise not having the amount of capital to be able to just open up their own spaces.
    Tell us a little bit more, if you would, about the kitchen itself and what kind of work it did?
    Oh, sure. So the kitchen, and there are now several across the country, but at that time, there were very few of them. It was a shared space that was initially run by a CDFI - a community development funding institution - who was able to obtain funding to open up a kitchen space knowing that there were many people who wanted to run food businesses, or start a food business, but were unable to because of the cost of actually renting out a space. They needed space to use and that would be inspected by inspectional services and given the green light to work and sell their products. So the kitchen did actually aid some caterers and other people who were working underground in their own houses, not being certified, etc., and therefore not able to expand their business. The idea of shared kitchens is really, really important. Certainly it was the way that I was able to launch my business and able to run it for some years because it was affordable to me. And at that one location was able to grow the business and actually move the location to a bigger space. I have a really long story there, but it's CommonWealth Kitchen in Boston and it is still thriving. They were able to actually buy the building recently, and the space that is still producing quite a lot of businesses that are thriving and also moving into their own spaces. The kitchen is able to give the support,

    • 14 min
    Vertical Farming in Qatar – Promise & Challenges

    Vertical Farming in Qatar – Promise & Challenges

    Today, we're exploring an agricultural innovation in the state of Qatar in Western Asia. Qatar is a wealthy, densely populated country located on the Northeast coast of the Arabian peninsula and leads the world in liquified natural gas exports. But the country's desert climate is harsh and the agriculture there is challenging. That's where shipping containers, artificial light and vertical farming techniques come into play. Our guest today is horticulturalist Mohamed Hassouna from the Qur-anic Botanic Garden in Qatar. He and his partners at the University of Arizona are developing a shipping container vertical farming model as a way to expand local food production.
    Interview Summary
    So first let's set the stage for our listeners. Could you describe the agricultural challenges in Qatar given the country's dry climate?
    Thank you for your introduction. Qatar, as other countries located in the Arabia peninsula and also in the Arabian states, are facing very harsh weather conditions. Particularly in Qatar, the weather here is hot desert weather characterized by sparse precipitations and high summer temperature experienced with high humidity, high solar radiation and poor soil additionally to strong winds. And this limits the agriculture sector to the months of October to April. Every year, this is the agriculture season here from October to April then the temperature is fine and can allow for producing vegetables. Also the land, the Arab land, suitable for agriculture is very limited. The last inventory here in the state estimated that there is only 60,000 hectares available for the agriculture sector. Also, we have a challenge with water. Water scarcity. The agriculture sector here in Qatar consumes 90% of the available water for the state. A big challenge is also that the agriculture sector consume about 36% of the available water in the aquifer. And as I told you, we have very minimum amount of rain every year. It's about 80 millimeters on average, every year. So production of agriculture in Qatar is difficult.
    Well, the picture you paint is really striking and I can imagine those challenges. So what role could your Botanic garden play in addressing food security in the country, closing the food security gap for communities, and also attending to the environment?
    Yes! The Qur-anic Botanic Garden is an active member in the community development sector in Qatar Foundation. It takes the issue of community awareness and education from school students to housewife to training even professionals to engage in the investment in agriculture. We established at the Qur-anic Botanic Garden an extra curriculum educational program for school students - from early stage to especially secondary schools students - to learn about the challenges of food security in Qatar, and what are the technologies they can learn. Students are leading the future here in Qatar. Without students being aware about the challenges facing the food security and the agriculture production, we cannot guarantee a future outlook of food security. Also the Qur-anic Botanic Garden has been partnered with Qatar Development Bank, and this is the official bank assigned to develop industry like also agriculture sector. So, anyone from Qatar who would like to take a loan to invest in the agriculture sector, we have the mission to train them on the latest technology of horticulture practices. They can use or they can establish greenhouses or they can establish other modern system for a production of vegetables. Either in their homes or in farms outside. Also Qur-anic Botanic Garden established a hotline for household people. There is now community farming in Qatar. People would like to plant their own vegetables in their home. The hotline is answering all their inquiries about seed selections, seedlings, how to prepare soil, how to make pesticides.
    So let's talk a little more deeply now about vertical farming. Can you describe what that is?

    • 11 min
    Ending Childhood Malnutrition is Within our Grasp

    Ending Childhood Malnutrition is Within our Grasp

    So what percentage of the world's children do you believe suffer from physical or mental stunting due to nutrition and food shortages? How lasting do you think these effects are and what can be done? Today's guest is Sharman Russell, author of the new book, Within Our Grasp: Childhood Malnutrition Worldwide and the Revolution Taking Place to End It. Among the reviews for the book, The Sunday Times of London said "Every page holds a revelation."
    Interview Summary
    So Sharman, let me begin with sort of a fundamental question. So we led with that issue about how many of the world's children face these hunger malnutrition stunting issues. And you note it in your book that almost one in four children in the world suffers from physical mental stunting in response to malnutrition and hunger, especially in the early years of life. One thing that's noteworthy about your book is that you emphasize successful approaches or solutions to ending this kind of childhood nutrition. A lot of people make note of the problem, but finding solutions is a whole different thing all together. But with this issue being so longstanding and complex why do you think there's reason to be hopeful?
    You know, I have been writing about hunger and malnutrition for the last 20 years, and I would never have been drawn to this subject, to this story, if it wasn't a hopeful one. I also happen to think that hope is the best strategy if you want to achieve something. Hope generates action, and hopelessness does not. For me, this sense of hope is about the last 20 years. At the end of the 20th Century, we finally began to understand the role of vitamins and minerals in the human body and in preventing and treating childhood malnutrition. By the turn of the century researchers had developed this wonderful, precisely fortified food medicine, these convenient packets of a peanut buttery paste, that children love, that don't need refrigeration or clean water, that can be given by parents in the home. And at the same time, importantly, we realized there isn't a single approach to ending childhood hunger. Many different things have to happen. Women need to be empowered. Families need good sanitation. They need to be protected from diseases of parasites that aggravate and even cause malnutrition. So we know what to do now. And we also know that for every dollar invested in nutrition, society gets back $16. So we have the motivation. We have the resources. That's pretty hopeful!
    I'm really happy to hear the optimism in your voice. But let me ask a question, a lot of hunger is driven now by climate change and, of course, by political unrest and things. So there's the knowing what to do about hunger and what people might be fed to help offset the problem. But what about these things going on outside of the nutrient part of it? Is there reason to be optimistic on those fronts?
    Those are real challenges. There's no doubt. We have to remember that nearly a quarter of the world's children are stunted, damaged because of lack of nutrients. Most of them live in peaceful countries. So while war and conflict is horrible, and what we're seeing now is absolutely horrible, most children live in peaceful countries. So those are the ones that we can start ending childhood malnutrition right now. The UN Food Systems Summit, last September determined that an additional 33 billion a year for 10 years on improved food systems could end the majority of hunger not caused by war conflict. And they were talking about all hunger, not just childhood malnutrition. So that's enormously hopeful, 33 billion a year for 10 years! I sometimes use the analogy that Americans are now spending 90 billion a year on their pets and pet products. And I think we should love our pets. Of course, we should love our pets. The important thing is we have the wealth right now to do this.
    Right, and you're talking about worldwide expenses. So America wouldn't have to be the only country contribu

    • 12 min
    Nutrition Security now a Clear Focus for USDA

    Nutrition Security now a Clear Focus for USDA

    Poor nutrition is the leading cause of health issues in the United States, with nearly three in four American adults being overweight or obese, and obesity in children and young people being equally concerning. Today, we're talking with Dr. Sara Bleich, the new Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity at the Food and Nutrition Service at the US Department of Agriculture. Dr. Bleich is leading the department's overall effort to tackle food and nutrition insecurity in the United States.
    Interview Summary
    Sara, it's always wonderful to chat with you, and doing so in different roles that you've been in. So last time we spoke, you were doing full-time work as a professor at Harvard, and now you're in this vital position at USDA. I mean, personally, I can't think of anyone more capable and qualified for this kind of work. And so I'd like to begin by asking if you could explain the purview of your work at USDA.
    I'd be happy to, and thank you. It's really kind of you to say that. And I do want to just underscore that for me, it really is an honor to have the opportunity to serve in this role and to help some of these populations that I care a lot about. And I do feel like so many folks in the public health community have been so generous with their time, their expertise, and have given really valuable feedback, so just really want to say thank you to those of you who are listening. You know who you are. You've really been a wonderful sounding board.
    So in terms of my transition to federal government, at the start of the Biden administration, I took a leave. I was previously at the Harvard School of Public Health, this was in January of 2021, and I spent the first year as the Senior Advisor for COVID in the Office of the Secretary. And now, in the second year of the administration, I have this new hat, which you mentioned, which is serving as the Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity, and this is within the Food Nutrition Service. So what's really interesting for me is that both of these jobs are brand new to USDA, so it's been really fun to sort of craft them and have the opportunity to sort of start fresh and take on these new responsibilities in very important areas. Now, one thing that they both have reminded me of is just how much I love federal service. This is my second tour of duty in government, and I honestly thought, the first time around, that I wouldn't like it so much, but I have fallen in love with federal service, I really love working at USDA, it's such a fun place to work, and I think that's largely because it has such a broad and diverse mission, so it touches the lives of 330 million Americans every day. I don't know of another job where you can have that sort of impact. So for me, it's great to be back. It's great to have an opportunity to serve, and it's especially nice to be able to do it in a topic area that I have worked on in my professional life, from the academic side, for so many years.
    The enormous impact that this federal work has is clear, from what you just said, and everybody knows this, and in any administration, the country really relies on the service of people like you who are willing to take on these important tasks, so I'd like to say how much I appreciate you doing that. So it's heartening to know that the USDA is making nutrition security a key priority, and it's noteworthy that the term food security has become food and nutrition security. Can you explain why this transition has occurred in terminology and how is nutrition security being operationalized?
    Great question. Really glad you asked it, because we are hearing a fair amount of confusion about the concept of nutrition security itself. And then how does it differ from the longstanding efforts at USDA to address food insecurity. So let's start with, first of all, what is nutrition security? So the concept is designed, or aims, to help us better recognize the coexistence of food insecurity an

    • 18 min
    Muller Shepherding Regenerative and Restorative Agricultural Practices

    Muller Shepherding Regenerative and Restorative Agricultural Practices

    Today's podcast is part of our Regenerative Agriculture series. I'm speaking with Mark Muller, Executive Director of the Regenerative Agriculture Foundation (RAF). The RAF seeks to foster the economic policy and knowledge conditions that support land stewardship, climate solutions, racial equity, adjust economy, and thriving rural communities.
    Interview Summary
    So Mark, your paths and mine have intersected over the years in very pleasant ways, and I've admired the work you do. And when you went to work with the Regenerative Agriculture Foundation, I thought, "Boy, this is a perfect match." And I'm so happy that you and the Foundation are part of the same picture now. So I'd like to ask, first if you could tell our listeners about the Foundation, and what does the organization hope to accomplish? Because the Foundation itself says that regenerative Ag is not a new idea, that it's difficult to define, it's grounded in community, and it's a journey. So I'd love to hear you explain how all this comes together into a coherent idea.
    So the Regenerative Agriculture Foundation, we are an intermediary funder, which means that we received grants from RV Family Foundations. Our founding entity was the 11th Hour Project of the Schmidt Family Foundation. And the idea is that we can utilize those funds more efficiently by having a solid knowledge-base of what's going on - on the ground in regenerative Agriculture. And so that we can re-grant those dollars to be more effectively used around the country. I was brought on about 18 months ago with the intention of trying to diversify our funding, to continue our great relationship with 11th Hour Project, and then to find other funders to step up in a bigger way. And I'm thrilled to have several that have joined. And what I really like for us to do is be the bridge between the nonprofit community, and the funder community. And trying to find different ways that we can all work together more effectively, to move advanced regenerative Agriculture.
    Is the concept of regenerative agriculture nebulous and difficult to define? Does the field kind of agree now on what it is?
    I noticed a couple of podcasts ago you had a great conversation with Samantha Mosier around this topic. In my mind, and the reason why on our website we talk about it being a journey, is because it is such a difficult to define concept. And there is a lot of pressure, from an industry and a marketing perspective. You really want to have a clear definition, like what we have for organic. In my mind, I am comfortable in the discomfort of not really having a clear definition. And what I feel like is it is a little presumptuous of us to think that we can define what a truly regenerative Agriculture is. It is a journey that we're going to continue learning about, and there are steps that we can take. And it appears that there are practices that we can document saying, "Yes, these appear to be pretty strong regenerative practices, but we have an awful lot to learn in terms of what a truly regenerative landscape is, and how agriculture fits into that. So I prefer to talk about it as a journey, and not like a specific destination that we know that we're going to.
    We've recorded a number of podcasts thus far with some farmers and ranchers who are living this day-to-day, with some scientists who have been looking at it, some people who pay attention to the policy part of it. And I know your Foundation will incorporate people who do all those sort of things. So let me ask kind of a big picture question then. So how do you think the regenerative agriculture can become part of the solution for addressing the climate crisis?
    Yes, great question. One of my motivations is to try to figure out how regenerative Agriculture can be recognized as a key part of the solutions that we need to have to address this climate crisis. And agriculture has come up quite a bit right now, the Glasgow COP meetings are going on. And

    • 14 min
    New Efforts to Combat Diabetes and Obesity Stigma in Clinical Settings

    New Efforts to Combat Diabetes and Obesity Stigma in Clinical Settings

    So there's much talk these days about weight stigma, in fact, we recorded a number of podcasts ourselves on the topic, and I believe it's very important, but this is our first podcast on another form of stigma. One that is powerful, often overlooked, and highly important to address. Our guests today are Matthew Garza and Nick Cuttriss. Matthew is Managing Editor at The diaTribe Foundation. And the dia in diaTribe derives from diabetes. The foundation's mission is to, and I'm quoting here, "to improve the lives of people with diabetes, prediabetes, "and obesity, and to advocate for action." I've served on an advisory board for diaTribe, and very much admire their work. Nicolas Cuttriss is a pediatric endocrinologist, and is founder of the ECHO Diabetes Action Network, and also has served on an advisory committee for the diaTribe Foundation. Matthew and Nick have been integral to a novel and welcome program on diabetes stigma that launched recently, that can be seen at the website, dstigmatize.org.
    Interview Summary
    So Matthew, let's start with you. So can you explain what is diabetes stigma, and how does it relate to stereotypes around food and obesity?
    Mathew – Absolutely. So in general, we know that stigma refers to the experiences of exclusion, rejection, prejudice, that blame and shame that people unfairly experience based on some characteristic or perceived difference. And in this case, that's diabetes. And this might look like negative attitudes towards people with diabetes. It might be hurtful or insensitive jokes made at their expense. And in some cases, it can even be outright discrimination. While there are many forms that diabetes stigma can take, such as being singled out for wearing a visible diabetes device, like a continuous glucose monitor for example, or an insulin pump, it could also be the stigma that's associated with having a chronic condition that does require, in some cases, daily medication. What we're seeing is that most of the research actually shows that the bulk of the stigma associated with diabetes stems from the misunderstanding that poor choices and unhealthy behaviors are the sole cause of this condition. And that people who have been diagnosed with diabetes somehow brought it on themselves. And this is attributed to both people with type 1 and type 2. And the stigma comes from lots of different sources. So it can be external from the media in shows or on the news. It can come from your friends and your family, from coworkers, healthcare professionals in a clinical setting. And sometimes it can even happen within the diabetes community. We often see that in defending themselves from the harmful stereotypes associated with diabetes, that people with type 1 can sometimes unintentionally redirect that stigma back onto people with type 2. And in regards to how this form of stigma specifically relates to food and obesity, it really goes back to what I was saying that unless you have diabetes or unless you know someone close to you that has diabetes, a lot of time, your only real knowledge of the condition is that it's connected to eating too much sugar, right? Or eating too much junk food, and that that somehow caused this. And a lot of times, it's associated with obesity or having excess weight. And then, on top of that, especially in America, we have this culture that there's this really problematic assumption that health is primarily a matter of individual responsibility. And this creates this stigmatizing narrative that blames people with diabetes for bad choices, and it sets up this us versus them. And it makes us treat people with diabetes differently because somehow they did this to themselves. But all of these beliefs oversimplify this really complex biological condition. And it overlooks all of those other, the systemic factors, such as environmental and socioeconomic context that people live in. Their access to healthy food options, to healthy grocery stores, for places to e

    • 17 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
11 Ratings

11 Ratings

shatishaw ,

I love this podcast!

The topics and guests are very interesting. I learn so much about the community and food policy.


Great topics

The topics are spot on and the discussions very interesting and authentic. I love that the guests on the show are in the thick of the work making change happen.

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