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The future of food: What chefs can bring to the table

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Chef David Chang, left, with World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim at the Future of Food event.
​© Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank


How can everyone, everywhere, get enough nutritious food? A famous chef, the president of the World Bank Group, a mushroom farmer from Zimbabwe, and a proponent of “social gastronomy” explored ways to end hunger and meet food challenges at an event, Future of Food, ahead of the 2015 World Bank Group-IMF Spring Meetings.

About 800 million people go to bed hungry every night. By 2050, there will be 9 billion people in the world to feed. Agricultural productivity will have to improve, said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

So how can chefs like David Chang, the founder of Momofuku restaurant, help?

One way is to tap their talents to “redefine edibility,” said Chang. About one-third of all food – an estimated 1.3 billion tons a year – is thrown away. Much of the wasted food could have been used. Other potential foods are waiting to be discovered, he said.

“Probably the best way to reduce hunger in the world is being more resourceful, much more frugal about it,” said Chang. “I just think that’s the issue at hand, and as a chef, we try to make delicious food out of things that aren’t normally delicious using techniques like fermentation.”

Knowledge and awareness are key, he added.  “The more you respect the process of how food is grown and prepared, the less you will waste … At the end of the day you have to care about food, and the more you care about it, the more delicious it is.”

Agriculture Global Practice Senior Director Juergen Voegele at the Future of Food event with World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and chef David Chang. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank​While progress has been made in the last 15 years, low-income countries still suffer high rates of hunger and poverty. The extreme poverty rate in low-income countries was 48% in 2010; the hunger rate was 28%.

A new paper, “Ending Poverty and Hunger by 2030: An Agenda for the Global Food System,” calls on key partners, coalitions, and alliances to come together to help “shape the evolution of the global food system to permanently end poverty and hunger by 2030.”

To that end, the World Bank Group is exploring ways to foster a sustainable food system, including ensuring a more climate-smart agriculture, improving nutritional outcomes, and helping farmers access markets.

“Enlisting the great chefs of the world in thinking about how to feed the world is something we’re going to commit to going forward,” said Kim. “We’re thrilled to know there are many chefs committed to the same tasks.”

Other speakers expressed their support for the idea of a more sustainable food supply. Mark Emil Hermansen represented the Copenhagen-based non-profit MAD, whose mission is to build a better world through a better meal. David Hertz, a chef and founder of Gastromotiva, helps marginalized young people from Brazil’s favelas learn culinary skills, join the working world, and even become entrepreneurs in their communities.

Chido Govera, founder of the Future of Hope Foundation, was orphaned at age 7 in Zimbabwe and at age 10 was encouraged to marry a man 30 years her senior so that she would have enough to eat. Instead she learned how to cultivate mushrooms and today teaches hundreds of people in Africa, India, and Colombia how to grow this nutritious food.

“What I believe personally is that food production has to belong in the hands of everyone,” said Govera.

Juergen Voegele, senior director of the World Bank Group’s Agriculture Global Practice, said the food system needs to feed “everyone, everywhere, every day.”

“We need better food systems in every country. We need better nutritional outcomes, and food systems that are fundamentally more sustainable,” he said.

“Some of you have asked me, why are we having a conversation with a chef?” Voegele said. “It’s because it’s everyone’s business. It is the producers, it is the traders, the manufacturers, and it is the cooks, nutritionists, and food experts of this world, and the consumers, All of us have a role to play in this.”

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