Danielle Nierenberg: Before You Throw That Away, Read This

October 30 - Sarah Ashlock


Last night, I made soup from scratch. I cut up veggies. I simmered. I stirred. I waited. I finally ate. I went to bed. I woke up. That’s when I discovered I left it out all night. I smoldered. You see, when something takes you a lot of effort, you get pretty red-faced when something goes awry, especially when you’re the one who makes the careless mistake. What’s something you’ve done recently that left you fuming? Staying mad at myself won’t help me salvage the soup. The soup’s gone, y’all. But maybe I can learn from this error. After all, that’s the advice I’d give someone else. Why is it so hard for me to take that advice myself?


It’s funny, as in one of those makes-me-want-to-cry ways, that my mistake happened before I wrote about this stat that shakes me to the core: At least one-third of the world’s food is wasted. Gone. Think about the farmers whose muscles ache from pulling up those carrots I used. When you think about the chain of food, it makes it that much more real how valuable this sustenance is. One tip I’ve learned over the years? Only buy as much as you’ll eat, especially when it comes to produce. No more mushy lettuce you forgot about in the crisper, OK?

WOMAN TO WATCH: Danielle Nierenberg, President and Co-founder of Food Tank

Cooking and grocery shopping aren’t always intuitive for everyone. People have parents who’ve never cooked; people have food insecurity; people have little financial freedom to expand beyond their usual staples. Today’s Woman to Watch, Danielle Nierenberg, is the co-founder and president of the nonprofit FoodTank, and she wants to change the way we think about food.

Danielle has spent her life researching and sharing the necessity of sustainable agriculture, a lifestyle that pushes for a global community that’s able to eat nourishing meals without destroying the environment.

Danielle was raised to appreciate where her food came from. Growing up on a small farm in Missouri, Danielle admits she wasn’t too fond of farming. A city kid at heart, she connected more with animal and environmental activism than agriculture. It wasn’t until she spent a couple of years in the Peace Corps, though, that she discovered food has the ability to leave people feeling either empowered or powerless. There, in the Dominican Republic, she witnessed farmers feeding the community and preserving the environment.

Her company Food Tank is a think tank for the food industry that includes notable food summits, which bring together organizations and individuals to come up with real, workable solutions. Danielle isn’t interested in filling rooms with people that think exactly the same way as one another. Rather, she wants to facilitate candid dialogues. For example, justice advocates spoke alongside scientists at one of the summits, rousing up quite a discussion.

While many of us have some preconceived notions about farming, Danielle explains if you’re looking for a career that surprises and invigorates you, choose farming. She shares that plenty of stereotypes surround the career path of “farmer,” but people would be astonished at the intellectuality and self-assurance required of the job.

Danielle says one thing consumers and policymakers may not realize is that agriculture makes up as much as half of greenhouse gas emissions, meaning it must be addressed if we want to stall or diminish climate change. When Danielle worked for an environmental organization for years before Food Tank, she learned that when your work is serious and massive, it can veer toward negative thinking. Instead, though, Danielle wants to focus on resolutions instead of only highlighting tribulations of an ambitious career path that demands change.

Follow Danielle on Twitter @DaniNierenberg.


Iranian activist Mahnaz Afkhami spent much of her life establishing structures that would secure women on equal footing. She once said:

"Women's empowerment is intertwined with respect for human rights.”

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