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Teaming up with America’s most powerful food leaders

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Danielle Nierenberg of Food Tank in Tanzania meeting with farmers. Photo: Food Tank Danielle Nierenberg of Food Tank in Tanzania meeting with farmers. Photo: Food Tank

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These three Oxfam Sisters on the Planet Ambassadors are among those changing the way we eat.

I’ll never forget watching 15 top chefs gather at a farm in the Hudson Valley, transforming a table of raw ingredients into a transcendent meal—all while using their knowledge and celebrity to take action to end hunger.

In September, I was lucky enough to attend an Oxfam-supported policy boot camp hosted by the James Beard Foundation, where chefs from around the country brought their passion and political connections to bear on food justice issues. At the center of this amazing gathering was foundation president Susan Ungaro. Under her watch, the foundation has flourished, becoming well-known not only as the “Oscars of food” but also as a leading think tank for culinary, hunger, and food issues.

Last week, the influential food website The Daily Meal named Ungaro to their 2014 list of America’s 50 most powerful people in food. It’s a fascinating list that includes everyone from Michelle Obama to the heads of McDonald’s, PETA, and Pepsi to activist chefs like Alice Waters and Jose Andrés.

What’s important to realize is that this isn’t a list of the best people in food per se, but of the most powerful. Daily Meal made that clear in their criteria: “Is each person on our list capable… of substantially changing, improving, and/or degrading the quality and variety of the American diet or the way we think about it?”

If we want to fight hunger and make the food system more fair, these are the leaders and organizations we need to deal with—whether that means forming partnerships with them or calling on them to change their policies for the better.

Indeed, three of the amazing women who made the list are Oxfam Sisters on the Planet Ambassadors. Ungaro has been an ambassador with Oxfam for two years, and has helped nurture chef-advocates and a start a wider national conversation on the power of food. Danielle Nierenberg and Ellen Gustafson are the co-founders of Food Tank, which in one year has become the go-to resource for the good food movement. They both have a long history in anti-hunger work. Gustafson is the co-founder of FEED and founder of the 30Project, and has been at the forefront of anti-hunger efforts for a decade. Nierenberg is an expert on agricultural innovations, traveling the world to meet with farmers changing the way we think about how to sustainably feed the world.

I’ve met and worked closely with all three, and I’m constantly impressed by their commitment, creativity, and craving to make food delicious, nutritious, just, and joyful.

In March, Nierenberg will join Oxfam and other Sisters on the Planet Ambassadors at our International Women’s Day Summit in Washington DC. She will bring not just her knowledge but the power of the Food Tank movement, now 100,000+ strong, to help advocate for more support for women farmers worldwide.

Now that’s powerful.

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