In this last portion of the James Beard Foundation Food Summit, facilitator Mitch Baranowski chats with Olivier DeSchutter (International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems), Phil Jones (City Food), Pamela Koch (Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy), Peggy Neu (The Monday Campaigns), and Hari Pulapaka (Stetson University) in this panel titled Cultivating Consumers into Citizens: Perspectives. This incredible panel of speakers not only discuss their most recent endeavors in food policy and advocacy, but also further delve into the role the consumer has to play within the avenues of sustainability, education, environmentalism, and even race relations when it comes to the food we buy, eat, and share.

In the closing discussions of the James Beard Foundation Food Summit, author and chef Tunde Wey talks about the realization that inspired him to start his thought-provoking Blackness in America and 1882 dinners. Wey spoke of his Nigerian heritage and how realizing the difference between this and being black and growing up in America helped him understand just how race is politicized. “In order to create change,” Wey says, “we need to understand that we are the problem. In order to move away from despair, to move away from pessimism, we have to think away from consumption, and [instead think] to contribution.”

Jon Alexander of The New Citizenship Project then follows Wey’s speech and closes the summit with a talk of his own about the meaning of being a “citizen.” Alexander discusses that as a society of consumers we are only looking out for our own best interests, so we must begin to think of ourselves as citizens and not only choose the options but help shape them. Alexander cites studies that demonstrate the fact that human behavior is not only motivated by competition and status, but also by empathy and collaboration, and this is an idea we must help foster by getting involved.

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