Pro Food Is...

What if I told you that America's food system is broken? What would you say?

Would you defend it by pointing out the abundance of choices offered in today's average supermarket, estimated to be over 45,000 items?
Would you cite that per capita spending on food has dropped
significantly over the last 50 years, freeing up incomes to improve
quality of life? Would you talk about how American innovation is not
only feeding our citizens, but is also feeding the world? Or would you
quietly ask what a food system is?

While perhaps it's not "broken," America's industrial food system,
which dominates food sales, has developed side effects that are
accelerating in severity, especially diet-related health (e.g.,
obesity, diabetes, asthma, allergies) and environmental (e.g., chemical
toxins, soil degradation, carbon emissions) issues that can no longer
be ignored.

The food industry's insatiable drive toward cheaper, more convenient
products has also disrupted the simple pleasures of cooking, eating
and/or sharing meals with family and friends, turning food into an
accessory, a lofty drop from once being an intimate part of our daily

The good news is there is an increasingly vocal ground swell of
advocates and experts working to reverse the downsides of industrial
food, with the high-profile personalities becoming lightning rods for
the powerful, entrenched corporate interests being challenged, which
commonly label them as "elitist" or "anti-ag." Such
claims, both untrue and unfair, are designed to minimize any impact
these knowledgeable voices have on public opinion and consumer
spending. Look no further than industrial food's aggressive reactions to the Food, Inc. documentary to see it in action.

One thing is clear, we can no longer allow industry to control the
dialog, but fighting fire with fire, especially the use of fear to
influence consumer behavior, doesn't sit well, and would probably be
less effective than other approaches. To that end I've attempted to
define the concept of "Pro Food" based on a set of core principles that
get at the heart of why I and others are dedicated to driving these
principles into mainstream culture through communications and
alternative food systems.


  • Inclusive - Everybody is part of Pro Food, since everyone can gain from its success.
  • Pro Farm - Fresh, healthy, and sustainable food starts
    with the farmers who grow it. Without their dedication, stewardship of
    the land and tireless labor it is difficult to envision Pro Food
    getting out of the gate.
  • Pro Consumer - Today's conventional food system has
    invested billions of dollars in constructing a food infrastructure
    designed to do one thing: sell as much food as possible, as quickly and
    cheaply as possible. This strategy has been good for bottom lines, bad
    for waistlines and even worse for personal healthcare costs. Pro Food
    envisions bringing farm and plate together in innovative retail
    experiences that go beyond convenience to embrace flavor, taste,
    seasonal rhythms, community and health.
  • Pro Cooking - Where would we be without cooking?
    Unfortunately for the last few generations, cooking has been left by
    the wayside in exchange for cheap, convenient substitutes as people
    became increasingly squeezed for time and energy. In many ways, Pro
    Food is based in the home kitchen, the best place to ensure we eat
    sustainably every day.
  • Pro Eating - The only thing possibly more important than
    cooking is eating. And while Pro Food places an emphasis on awakening
    America's home kitchens, it also recognizes that many institutions
    (schools, hospitals, corporate cafeterias) and restaurants are doing
    their part in bringing the same healthy, flavorful and sustainable food
    on to every plate they serve.
  • Community-Oriented - Pro Food recognizes the simple
    pleasure of bringing people together around food. Information is
    shared, bonds are strengthened and friendships are made. It also
    appreciates the economic benefits it can bring to regional food
    economies. Sustainable food can be imported (in the absence of local
    options), but increasing demand being met through local channels, there
    will be incentive for farms and processors to participate, as well as
    for existing providers to transition to sustainable production. Keeping
    money circulating longer within regional economies is key to Pro Food
  • Entrepreneurial - Building a meaningful Pro Food presence
    in a food system dominated by massive conventional players with deeply
    entrenched interests (and reach) will take a lot of hard work,
    innovation and old fashioned luck. Fortunately we can leverage
    America's entrepreneurial spirit in systematically building the
    ever-broader foundation needed to move Pro Food forward.

What Pro Food ultimately becomes is up to those who recognize and
embrace its ideal of healthy, sustainable food systems and make it
their own. For it is up to all of us, from farmers to eaters, and
everyone else who cares about the food they eat, to carry Pro Food
forward and make its vision, its values a reality.

In some very interesting ways, Pro Food draws parallels with the
early years of the Internet, when it was still isolated from the
mainstream in government and university labs. People, especially
entrepreneurs, were starting to eye the Internet as something that
could revolutionize communications and collaboration, that could
democratize things long centralized. At first, they had no idea what
was going to stick, but began applying time, energy and money in search
of winning formulas.

This is where I see Pro Food today, which makes it financially
exciting for those with solutions to the problems we face. I look
forward to joining them and others on this exciting journey.

Every Kitchen Table is a proud supporter of Fight Back Fridays.

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