TEDxManhattan Speaker Update: David McInerney

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We’ve been checking in with former TEDxManhattan speakers to get an update on their work.  Below, 2013 speaker David McInerney, co-founder of FreshDirect, brings us up to date on how the company is working to change the way we eat.  You can see David’s talk here.

DM1) What have been the most exciting developments in your work since TEDxManhattan? Since TEDxManhattan, all of us at FreshDirect have been continuing our mission to change the relationship people have with Food, Freshness and Farmers. Part of our commitment to changing the way people eat is to help create access to fresh, healthy foods, particularly in food deserts and among our urban youth.  Throughout the 2013 school year, we supplied nutritious, quality meals to the Sustainability Workshop School in Philadelphia as a part of their school lunch program. Since starting the school lunch program, the students at the Sustainability Workshop have consumed 25 percent more vegetables and 40 percent more fruits than ever before. FreshDirect also acknowledges the hurdles low income neighborhoods face with regard to accessing fresh, high quality foods. In order to help combat this challenge, FreshDirect has piloted the first online EBT program in the Bronx. Recently, I’m proud to say that we completed our inaugural Green Angel Fund Challenge, an urban agriculture-focused competition between two high schools: the Sustainability Workshop School in Philadelphia run by Simon Hauger, and the John V. Lindsay Wildcat Charter School in the Bronx run by Marc Donald with support provided by Stephen Ritz of the Green Bronx Machine. The schools were guided by farmer mentors that we source from and competed to develop the nation’s most innovative hydroponic garden based on yield and eco-friendly design.  The challenge allowed farmers and urban students to team up to develop solutions to these problems by developing models for sustainable urban agriculture. The teamwork was mutually beneficial; the farmers help the students by imparting knowledge and expertise to them about best farming practices before they develop their models and the students benefit farmers by creating new models that will produce a yield and help to increase the demand for fresh foods in the inner-city.

2) What are your biggest plans for the 2nd half of 2013? We have a lot of exciting initiatives happening at the moment. Currently, we are highlighting healthy, exotic, and in some cases, one-of-a-kind fruit options, to replace sweet and processed snacks through our Sweet and Simple campaign. As part of my taste crusade, we’ve been highlighting things like CandyCots – an apricot that is sweeter than candy, plumogranates, peach pie peaches, finger limes and Cotton Candy Grapes will be in the spotlight throughout the campaign.  For each fruit highlighted, customers can learn about the nutritional details and benefits, farms they are sourced from, fun facts and recipe ideas, making sweet, fresh options a simple choice this summer.  We are asking customers to think to themselves “what if my kids never ate actual cotton candy or other processed candies and instead begged me for grapes and apricots?” With nearly 24 million children between the ages of two and 19 characterized as overweight or obese and 150 million adults in the same condition,  we think fruit options like these can help change the way we all view what tastes good, and most importantly, help lead to a healthier future.
I have also been taking some incredible trips meeting with farmers, fisherman and ranchers around the world to learn more about issues affecting our food industry and our farmers.  From learning about Fair Trade bananas in Ecuador to more about seafood sustainability through sourcing Gulf Shrimp in New Orleans, our goal is to help educate our customers about food issues and food choices and make sure we are sourcing from the best possible farmers, fisherman and ranchers out there.

3) Where can we learn more about your work going forward? We try to keep our customers as up-to-date and educated about everything we’re working on through FreshDirect.com, through email blasts, and through all of our social media channels, including our facebook and twitter page and our blog.  We also encourage you to check out our YouTube channel, which we consistently update with new videos on everything from my trips around the world, to a spotlight on our local farmers. We’re always creating new ways to learn more about our commitment to change the relationship people have with food, farmers and freshness.

4) What impact did TEDxManhattan have on your work? TEDxManhattan has provided us with an incredible platform to champion our commitment to raise American’s standards in the taste of Fresh Healthy Food.  My letter to the editor on the topic was even featured in the Wall Street Journal.  We have not only made incredible contacts but have used the conference to help better communicate our commitment to change the way we eat to all of our customers. It truly has allowed us to as create heightened awareness about issues that plague our farmers and the food industry, and helped us change the conversation about how to create a healthier world and healthier future.

5) What else would you like to share with the TEDxManhattan audience? Currently, we are working on developing a roundtable series that convenes 5-10 experts across a variety of industries surrounding controversial food topics During each roundtable session, we will convene national thought-leaders that represent different viewpoints on these key topics, who will each share their unique perspectives as well as pain points and concerns surrounding the issues at hand.  These thought-leaders will also share and vet best practices and ideas in order to address these important topics, all of which directly affect the health of consumers, animals and our farmers.  The goal of these roundtables will be to use the best minds to change industry standards and lead to a healthier future.

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