From Diane’s Desk: To Catch You Up

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Diane Hatz is the Founder & Executive Director of Change Food.  She’s been working toward a better food system for nearly 20 years and is sharing her thoughts as she prepares for The Change Food Fest in New York City on November 12th, 2016.

We’re three months out from The Change Food Fest, and there is more to do than you (or I!) probably realize.  The past six months or so have been spent researching and doing outreach to potential sponsors, figuring out the theme of the event, where to have it, how to structure it, who to have speak at it – among many more things.

nVIqIaAIssues that have arisen that we are addressing, considering, and/or thinking about include:

  • The explosion of venture capital and investment money into the food space has changed the landscape of food and the food movement.  This is a theme that will probably run through the Fest because I think there is a crucial shift going on that people don’t realize.  
    • I went to several food tech conferences over the course of the year because originally the Fest was going to focus on food startups and investment money.  I quickly learned that the food movement is not present at most of these and big food was not always being truthfully transparent.  The businessmen in the room had no idea if something said was correct or greenwashing.
    • With billions of dollars comes power.  I believe a new table has been set, and the food movement does not have a seat at it.  I will get into this more as we get closer to the event.  
  • After attending a few vc type/food tech conferences, I decided I didn’t want to focus the Fest on that area.  There are a lot of greedy people trying to make a lot of money quickly.  Don’t get me wrong – there are a few people who are sustainably minded and who are doing or want to do the right thing, so hope is not lost. The greed, though, was a turnoff.
  • Comparing the tens of millions of dollars (or more!) that some food startups are getting – for home food delivery services and the like, for basically fulfilling the potential desires of economically secure people (the wealthy….) – looking at that and comparing it to people working at the community level with little to no financial support – people who are literally changing their neighborhoods and the lives of their neighbors through food – looking at that disparity is starting to anger me.  And I want to find a way to do something about it – even if it’s just having the right speakers at the Fest.
  • WE DO NOT NEED 3D PRINTED RAVIOLI – we need healthy food in food insecure areas!  This is starting to become a rallying cry and could possibly shape the direction Change Food goes in.
  • I believe the food movement should work to educate startups about the issues we all are working on.  I have been mentoring some startups and have noticed that many want to do the right thing but don’t really understand all the issues.  Shouldn’t we educate a company now about what real sustainability is – before they become the size of Walmart??
  • There are many more events around food than there have ever been.  They have literally exploded over the past year.  So is The Change Food Fest relevant?  What can we do that other events don’t?  How can we work with other groups and events?  How can we make our experience much more than just an event?
  • With the addition of so many more events, this has meant that –
    • Sponsors are spread thinner so there is less money to underwrite such events.  That means it is much harder to get sponsorship dollars and it is taking much more time than it did previously
    • People are spread thinner because you can only go to so many functions
    • Ticket prices are increasing – did you know the fall New York Times conference is almost $3,000 a ticket?  That is if you can get in.
    • This has led me to wonder if we should put on such a high caliber event – The Change Food Fest, and TEDxManhattan before it, are/were very expensive endeavors.  Is the benefit/payout of the event worth the money and time invested?

There is a lot more to putting on an event than picking a venue and selecting some speakers.  It took over six months to decide on “Growing the Good Food Movement” as our theme.  I’ve concluded the only way the food movement will be successful is through the success of for profit businesses – so we need to find the ones who are doing it right and work with them to provide them any resources they might need and make sure they stay on a truly sustainable track.  


The Change Food Fest “Growing the Good Food Movement”  will take place in New York City on November 12th and 13th, 2016. We will explore and celebrate change happening in the food system. Rather than simply talk about problems, we will actively look at solutions that are leading us to the sustainable food system we wish to see. Our focus will be on both real and visionary change and will include an exploration into seafood, plant based vs meat diets, possible impacts of new businesses and investment money coming into the food space – and much more. You can purchase a ticket or host a viewing party of the live webcast in your local community. Follow the action at #CFFest2016!

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.