Food Day is Transforming the Sustainable Food Movement in the United States

Food Day on October 24, 2015 is the annual campaign to create a more sustainable food system in the United States based on the philosophy that “Food should be healthy, affordable, and produced with care for the animals, environment, and people who serve, produce and harvest it.”

Progress in the field of sustainable food, already a complex topic, had been slowed by murky objectives, myriad stakeholders and multitudes of organizations operating in overlapping solution spaces. But thanks to Slow Food veteran Lilia Smelkova and the small project team within the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Day has grown exponentially to more than 8,000 events from coast to coast.

Food Day is now a force that is transforming the sustainable food movement in the United States. I believe there are three keys to Food Day’s impact:

1. Targeted programming is the foundation of a strong social media campaign. 

Food Day is not #hashtag activism. Sure, it is impressive that last year #FoodDay2014 was tweeted more than 10,000 times. But many campaigns put up big numbers online without achieving any actual impact. The difference is that Food Day’s social media enthusiasm signifies a deeper interest in taking action through more than 8,000 actual events taking place in cities and campuses across the country. Events get the public involved and invested in the issues, which is critical in a country where direct-to-consumer marketing is more effective than public policy for creating positive social change.

2. Crowdsourced virtual organization unites celebrity endorsers with grassroots activists.

Food Day’s advisory board includes celebrity chefs, top sustainability advocates and politicians, and its roster of public-private partnership includes more than 90 non-governmental organizations and corporations. These key players sponsor events and build support for the organization. But equally important is the virtual confederation of crowdsourced local events that register to participate in the umbrella campaign.

3. Systems thinking enables deep non-traditional collaboration.

Food Day believes in an integrated approach to create positive social impact in sustainable food, by addressing hunger, obesity, animal welfare, food workers, and the environment, looking at interrelated root causes and solutions. According to Lilia Smelkova, “the solution is getting out of our silos, being very open-minded, cross-pollinating ideas, sharing and working together to achieve our goals.”