Nearly 300 guests gathered in the Jack Morton Auditorium Thursday to hear chef José Andrés deliver the keynote speech at the third annual Food Tank Summit.
Andrés was one of more than three dozen speakers at Thursday’s event, hosted by FoodTank, an organization that searches for solutions to solving hunger, obesity and poverty worldwide. The theme of this year’s summit was “Let’s Build a Better Food Policy.”
University President Steven Knapp opened the day’s roster, which included chefs, farmers, government officials, researchers, students and other leaders in the food and agricultural industry. Knapp spoke about the University’s commitment to food and agriculture issues.
Here are some highlights from the summit opening:
1. Bringing together food justice and access
During his brief speech, Knapp spoke about GW’s Urban Food Task Force, which his wife, Diane, who is a nutritionist, founded several years ago. Knapp said this task force was created to bring together interests of issues of food justice, food access, and healthy eating among students and faculty.
“Their work resulted in a recommendation to create the food institute, which was chartered last year,” Knapp said. “It built on the interests of our students expressed in a variety of activities including the GroW Garden on campus which provides produce to Miriam’s Kitchen, a local kitchen for those with food insecurity here in Washington D.C.”
2. The importance of being “people of action”
Andrés, in his keynote speech, spoke about how eating has become a “political statement” in today’s society.
He began his speech by talking about the need for those in attendance to go out and start taking action to address food insecurity in their local schools, governments and communities, rather than only attending speeches and conferences.
“Learning and clapping like seals in a zoo when you get a sardine should be something of the past,” Andrés said. “You’re here today to go out in the world, and start doing things. It doesn’t matter if it is small or it is big.”
Andrés said that no matter what political side chefs are on, they have to “be on the table,” and not only feed the people in their restaurants, but also take action to be agents of change and feed the hungry both at home and abroad.
“Food, at the end of the day, is a great way to have a narrative about many of the issues we face today and how we can find solutions going forward,” he said.
The issue Andrés focused on the most was child hunger. He said that people of all political leanings should be united to make sure that every child has a plate of food “every day of their life” and urged the government to add funding to bring food to children.
3. Immigration and food
Andrés also spoke about the mistreatment of undocumented farmers, whom he said were underpaid. He highlighted the injustice from politicians who benefit from farmers’ produce, yet want to kick those same farmers out of the country.
“In Congress I know that senators and congressmen are eating salads that are being picked by those same undocumented farmers that they don’t want to pass immigration reform for so that they can be a part of the American system, but they already are and right now they are ghosts,” he said.
Andrés said he has positions open in his restaurants for which he cannot hire people due to current immigration regulations. He said immigration reform is the “human thing to do” and has everything to do with food.