A Fond Farewell to TEDxManhattan

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TEDxManhattan 2014 StageFive years. 90 speakers. 7.2 million YouTube views. 494 viewing parties. 8 million people impacted. TEDxManhattan “Changing the Way We Eat” resonated across the world and made great strides for an improved food system. The five influential one-day events held from 2011 to 2015 were a nationally-recognized brand and a sought-after platform for individuals and organizations doing innovative work in sustainable food and farming. It provided innovators with an opportunity to raise their profile and reach far beyond their existing audiences. TEDxManhattan has had a significant impact, acting as a catalyst for new opportunities, spurring media coverage of new projects and leading to dynamic partnerships.

After five years of significant successes, TEDxManhattan has officially retired and we bid it a fond farewell. The impact of each event will live on in the projects, collaborations and new events made possible by TEDxManhattan.

Stephen Ritz and Diane Hatz 2012

Steve Ritz of Green Bronx Machine and TEDxManhattan host/organizer Diane Hatz

We wanted to take an opportunity to thank and honor all of the speakers, participants, viewing party organizers, sponsors, volunteers and all those who attended the event. TEDxManhattan was all of us combined.


More than anything, TEDxManhattan was about the people. It was about the connections, collaborations and friendships the events made possible. The selected speakers were given an opportunity to present their project or idea to a captive audience and each person walked away with a community of champions ready to support them.

And for some it completely changed their lives. Some speakers were new to the food movement and had never been exposed to such a receptive audience. Veteran food activists were ready and willing to lend their expertise. Below we’ve highlighted only a few of the incredible partnerships made possible by TEDxManhattan.

TEDxManhattan 2011 MugAudience member Susan Haar organized the Harvard Food Law Conference that has led to students organizing regionally and in other groups. She says, “I really want to say it never would have happened without (Diane Hatz) and TEDxManhattan. In one day you completely woke me up to the possibility of changing the food system and the urgency to do so.” The Harvard conference energized everyone in attendance and next steps proposed by students are already in the works – including a website, an alumni network, sharing of administrative resources for starting a student food law society, sharing of ideas for topics of student notes, cross-network projects, and an annual meeting.

Susan was introduced to 2015 TEDxManhattan speaker, Michele Merkel, Co-director of Food & Water Justice and invited her to be the keynote speaker for the Harvard Food Law Conference. It gave Michele’s justice program great exposure and also a view into the future of the legal efforts in the food movement.

Michele’s 2015 TEDxManhattan talk, “Using the legal system to fight factory farms” spurred a Food & Water Watch alert, and over 13,000 people took action against the EPA, asking them to reinstate the rule to create an inventory of CAFOs. This occurred within days of her video release. 

For Sunny Young, her Mississippi Farm to School Network was funded $400k for 3 years by WK Kellogg, shortly after her TEDxManhattan update at the 2015 event. She says, “I feel like my talk was a HUGE reason the Mississippi Farm to School Network started! The network will take the farm to school project in Oxford (Mississippi) and help expand its efforts statewide.”

Crowd ShotWild plant forager Tama Matsuoka Wong of Meadows and More and David McInerney, co-founder of FreshDirect, both spoke at TEDxManhattan 2013 and returned in 2014 to give brief updates. Their conversations led to a partnership in which FreshDirect sells wild plants foraged by Meadows and More to its New York City customers.  In Tama’s words, “This wouldn’t have happened without the ongoing work and get-togethers [TEDxManhattan] made happen.”

Kavita Shukla, Founder & CEO of Fenugreen, spoke at TEDxManhattan 2012 about Fenugreen’s Freshpaper, a product that keeps produce fresh longer, with the aim of reducing the 25% of the world’s food supply now lost to spoilage. Her talk led directly to a Washington Post article by a writer who was in the audience, followed by a massive increase in distribution and demand.  In Kavita’s words: “The response was incredible. Within weeks, we were shipping FreshPaper to folks across the US and launching in Whole Foods stores across the East Coast. This grassroots movement that started at TEDxManhattan, with Diane [Hatz’]s support and encouragement, took FreshPaper from our local farmers market to farmers & families across the globe in over 35 countries.”

Stephen Ritz, Founder of Green Bronx Machine and Dean of Students and Community Partnership Coordinator at Hyde Leadership Charter School in the Bronx, spoke at TEDxManhattan 2012.  His talk, “A teacher growing green in the South Bronx,” made the main TED.com site and has been watched approximately 1 million times.  Along with other past speakers, Steve came back to give brief updates at TEDxManhattan 2013, 2014 and 2015.  In his words: “So much more has happened for so many people as a result of my participation.  I’ve spoken at dozens of schools, colleges, CBO’s….My work has been featured on national TV, radio, blogs everywhere….I am being asked to train teachers, K-12, colleges/universities and even Teach for America is using the [TEDxManhattan] video.  Here in NYC, with support garnered from TEDxManhattan, my students and I went on to build two of the largest food producing facilities on THE ENTIRE ISLAND of Manhattan, serving hundreds of residents in two high-need communities.”

All TEDxManhattan Speakers 2015Founding Principal of Small Planet Institute and Small Planet Fund, Anna Lappé, spoke at TEDxManhattan 2013 and returned in 2015 to announce the Real Food Media Project winner. She says, “I’ve been speaking to audiences around the country about food and farming, health and sustainability for more than twelve years and no talk has been watched as much, or brought as much attention, to my projects and work as my TEDxManhattan talk has. Now watched more than 707,000 times, the talk has led to new contacts, media opportunities, and new connections to further our collective work to fix a broken food system. TEDxManhattan was a unique event, with a huge impact, and it was an honor to be a part of it.”  

Megan Miller is the Co-Founder of Bitty Foods, a food company making high-protein baked goods and baking mixes from cricket flour. As a result of her TEDxManhattan talk in 2014, she met chef Tyler Florence and he became the Culinary Director for her company. Numerous media outlets have promoted the cricket flour products including Vogue and the New York Times.

TEDxManhattan speaker, Britta Riley spoke in 2011 and her talk,“Windowfarms: Research and do it yourself,” was selected by TED.com to be featured on their main site. The video has received over 1.3 million views.  

Gary Oppenheimer credits his 2012 TEDxManhattan talk for AmpleHavest.org’s ability to reach 20% of America’s food pantries. He was also honored as a CNN Hero.  He met with the former pastry chef for the White House and TEDxManhattan speaker Bill Yosses to help AmpleHarvest.org expand its network. Gary was invited to give another TEDx Talk, “Why food drives actually contribute to hunger in America,” which is now helping people nationwide better support their communities.

Clint Smith drew the attention of the international TED Conference with his 2014 talk, “Celebrating resilience – Reframing the narrative around our students,” and in 2014 spoke at a NYC TED conference; that talk, “The Danger of Silence” has over 2.8 million views. From there, he spoke on the main TED stage in March 2015; “How to Raise a Black Son in America” has over 1.5 million views.

TEDx All Speakers


TEDxManhattan live-streamed each year’s event, making it available worldwide. Beyond the 370 people in the audience, each event was watched by organized viewing parties and individuals. Nearly 500 registered viewing parties were hosted across the world from 2011 to 2015 – many more occurred globally and were unregistered. In 2015 alone, the estimated viewer attendance was 8,500 people. Each event was independently produced and spanned across 14 countries outside the United States, including Brazil, India, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Cyprus, South Africa, Costa Rica and Canada.

One TEDxManhattan viewing party host praised, “Everything I heard from all my viewing party attendees was super positive. None of them had ever heard of TEDxManhattan before the party, but they were all very impressed and inspired.”

During TEDxManhattan 2015, the event ranked in the top five trends on Twitter with #tedxman. That same year there were 10,000 tweets and 5,000 replies to @TEDxManhattan. 18,000 more people were reached through Facebook. The topics and issues spoke directly to the audience and ignited direct engagement. Audiences were motivated to share and inspired to play a part in the food movement.

This is one of our favorite quotes from an audience member:

The last time I felt so uplifted from attending an event was the first rock concert I ever went to – Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden. The opening act was a little, upcoming band at the time called Aerosmith! That was quite a while ago…”

– Pat O’Neill, CEO Amp Your Good, LLC


Each year, hundreds of applications were submitted with the hopes of speaking at TEDxManhattan. The event was highly sought-after by everyone in the food community. Media attention grew with each year and in 2015 alone it earned 608,740,892 media impressions including Fortune, Yahoo! Food, and BuzzFeed.  A selection of top viewed videos include:

Stephen Ritz TEDx


A Garden in My Apartment: Britta Riley – 1,394,763

Turning the Farm Bill into the Food Bill: Ken Cook – 26,851

Green Bronx Machine — growing our way into a new economy: Stephen Ritz – 1,028,393

BrightFarms — a produce supply chain revolution: Paul Lightfoot  – 45,159

Animal factories and the abuse of power: Wayne Pacelle  – 36,952


Marketing food to children: Anna Lappe  – 707,618

Why Genetically Engineered Foods Should be Labeled: Gary Hirshberg – 33,313


The tree of forty fruits: Sam Van Aken – 306,716

Celebrating resilience – reframing the narrative around our students: Clint Smith – 56,724

Are insects the future of food?: Megan Miller – 47,667


Why is organic food so *#@! expensive??: Ali Partovi – 27,916

Using the legal system to fight factory farms: Michele Merkel – 18,151

This is only a snapshot of the momentum brought about by TEDxManhattan. Every speaker is now part of an even more interconnected network of food innovators. And their videos will forever be available on YouTube for anyone, anywhere to access at anytime, which allows their impact to be limitless.


“Diane Hatz and the team at Change Food have turned TEDxManhattan into an increasingly important institution in the food movement. It’s an annual showcase of inspiration, invention, trouble-making, indignation and fun that renews my faith in the power of people to overhaul a food system that’s way past its sell-by date. Bring your appetite—for breakthrough ideas, heroic struggles, stimulating conversation and great food—and I promise you this: you’ll leave hungry for more in the year ahead.”    – Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group

That is exactly how we wish to remember TEDxManhattan, as a disruptor that inspired and renewed our faith in the power of people to overhaul the food system, with a side of fun.

As we say goodbye to TEDxManhattan, we say hello to a new era of the food movement. Licensee of TEDxManhattan, Diane Hatz, who is also Founder & Executive Director of Change Food, is not only carrying on the work, she is busy planning the Change Food Fest, a 3-day event/conference/adventure/experience to be held in New York City in November 2016.  We hope you’ll join us then.

Watch all the TEDxManhattan talks in the Change Food Video Library.

Brittany Barton is the creative behind SparkleKitchen.com. Brittany offers real food recipes, sustainable living guidance and inspiration for others to become more sparkly versions of themselves.


Change Food® works toward a healthier food system for people, animals & the planet.  Learn more about Plant Eat Share – planting food in public spaces. For free.