Eight years ago at a church social in my hometown, I was a few months into my new job at the American Dairy Association when a dairy farmer by the name of Don Hempfling told me he was proud of the work we were doing at the checkoff, bought me a “social burger” and he told me thank you. That conversation and gesture ultimately became a defining moment in my career and from that evening forward, I was committed to working with farmers.
Over the years I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with you, learn from you and call you my friends. The core values of this organization and the leadership you provide are a true testament of what doing the right thing in life leads to. As I reflect on nearly a decade of employment in the dairy industry, I am thankful for the opportunity to be a small part of the many great programs we’ve built over the years. What I’ll remember the most about the programs though, is that the people involved were great people who valued doing the right thing.
While I am technically resigning from DMI and will be starting a new venture, the success of the dairy industry and working on behalf of farmers is still core to defining success. I look forward to building the UpField Group into an organization that farmers will be proud of, will create revenue for your industry and will share the values of this organization.
Finally, thank you for all you have done and continue to do as leaders of the dairy industry. As a staff member at DMI, it is a privilege to be invited to the Board meetings and to spend time with you all. Over the years I’ve had the good fortune of spending time with many of you and your families at these meetings, and as a result, I believe I am a better person both professionally and personally. You are the leaders of our industry, but more importantly of your families and your farms. That dynamic makes you a special group of people and I am thankful for the opportunity to have worked with you and for you. As I resign from DMI, please know it is not a resignation from agriculture or farming, but rather a decision to continue onward in agriculture, working in a new way on behalf of a great group of people.
As a kid, there was always food in the refrigerator for us to eat before school. My mom worked nights and usually didn’t get home before we were off to school, but she always made sure there was enough to eat. There was always milk in the fridge, cereal, pancakes, fruit of some kind, toast and probably some junk food too.
Having the usual breakfast foods around the house was something I took for granted as a kid. My family didn’t have a whole lot in comparison to today’s standards, but it was more than enough. And by enough, I mean I wasn’t one of the kids that went to the cafeteria before school started to eat breakfast with the poor kids. (That’s what we called the handful of kids that were on the free and reduced lunch program) No one was mean to them or anything like that; in fact most of them were my friends by the time we graduated high school. However we all know kids can be mean, especially in middle school; and every differentiating factor is a finger-pointing big deal.
Good thing the older we get the wiser we become, because I’ve learned that eating breakfast at school just may be the most important thing a student does at school! A recent study concluded that kids who eat breakfast and are physically active perform better on standardized tests, have fewer behavior issues at school and have increased memory and focus.
This week is National School Breakfast Week and the work being done by the National Dairy Council and Feeding America to address issues like Hunger and School Breakfast Initiatives is needed more now than ever. More parents are unemployed than in recent history which means more families are struggling to get by. The negative stigma of eating breakfast at school started a long time ago, and has manifested into an unfortunate reality. Kids, who eat breakfast at school or who participate in the free and reduced meal program, in many places, unfortunately feel like they are wearing a scarlet letter. They are pressured into embarrassment and made to feel as though they are different because they eat breakfast at school. Because they are hungry. In many instances, eating at school is the only place a child does eat.
Being the leaders off the field and true professionals they are, twenty-five NFL players are eating school breakfast this week in connection with the Fuel Up to Play 60 program to raise awareness and address this stereotype. We can do our part too by supporting school meal programs, considering a donation to your local food pantry and not pointing fingers at the hungry kids.
After following very closely two Future of Food events in the past couple weeks led by the PulitzerPrize winning editor of the Washington Post, Mary Jordan,
I’ve had my eyes opened to just how complex and how many people in our country are concerned with the issue of feeding a growing global population. While many Americans are unsure where their next meal is going to come from, thought leaders in the agriculture and political spaces are considering how America will help feed an expected 9 billion people by the year 2050.
In food insecure countries around the world, neither farmers nor government have the necessary land or water needed to support a growing population. Without proper land and water systems at their disposal, the likelihood of producing an ample amount of food to feed their people is grim. As a result, people tun to any means necessary to survive which which means increased violence and unrest. In areas like the Middle East, there has already been in influx of violence, protest and crime due to the hunger issue. Iran, North Korea and China, as they experience rapid population growth, area also developing weapons which may at some time be used to attain food from countries that have water systems and land needed to produce food.
As we think about the role of food in regard to national security, it’s also vital to look at the quality of food that is available. Just eating what’s available isn’t the answer. Our country has an obesity epidemic that costs us trillions in healthcare annually as a result of poor choices and limited access to healthy food. There are growing concerns from a nutritional standpoint as the weight of our nation increases, childhood obesity statistics grow and the number of people suffering from diabetes, hypertension and other weight related illnesses cost Americans an astronomical amount of their income in healthcare annually; we have to ask ourselves, where does the relief come from?
Today at the Future of Food event in Denver
it was reported that nearly 40 percent of all the food produced in America is wasted. Either at production sites by manufacturers or consumption sites by people, we waste enough food to feed millions of hungry people. In fact, America wastes approximately one ton of food per hungry person in the world every year. As millions starve around the world every day, we have more than enough in our dumpsters to feed them a ton of food each… When you consider how wasteful and inefficient we are, it’s no wonder we’ve acquired the reputation we have with these countries.
If you think this topic is interesting, join the conversation on Twitter by using the hash tag #thinkfood and weigh in with your opinion. There are three upcoming events led by Mary Jordan and the Washington Post before the 2012 election; starting on July 16th and concluding in October. If you care about the future of food, I challenge you to think about where it’s going to come from.