Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, NY is hosting what sounds like a terrific conference on “Food for Tomorrow.” Journalists, food executives, chefs and policy makers are meeting mid-October on a beautiful property to discuss the latest conversations happening around the issues of: sustainability, genetically altered ingredients, Kraft’s decision to end the use of preservatives in its well known macaroni and cheese, the meaning of the word “natural” in food, and so on and so on. I would love to attend! What a better way for me to spend a weekend than to listen to the top food executives and those dictating our food policies discuss the future of food? Only, I can’t. I “Requested an Invitation,” as instructed, from the website, NYTFOODFORTOMORROW.COM, only to learn that it cost nearly $2,000 to attend this event! That’s right, TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS for a two day conference! So, here’s my take away: like so many others things in life, many of the best experiences, life changing, informative, important experiences may only happen if you can afford them. This isn’t rocket science, I know this in principle. The poor, the middle class, small business owners (and yes, this includes organic farmers trying to make a living selling the very produce these speakers will tout), students studying public food policy, burgeoning chefs, roof top farmers, A LOT of parents, A LOT of people who just may be plain interested in this topic, will not be able to attend this fine event because, well, they don’t have that kind of disposable income. So, all the people likely being spoken ABOUT will not be able to be spoken TO. They will not be able to be a part of a dialogue about the food on their plates, the foods they grow, the foods they should not eat. How disheartening is this?! The marginalized remain marginalized. All people should be allowed access to something like this. Allow everyone who is interested a reasonable opportunity to participate. We’re talking about food here; it affects everyone. How can we continue to have conversations about changing the food system and feeding the masses without including some of those masses? That doesn’t seem fair.
I’m focused on nutrition; its my business. It’s important to me (and interesting to me!) to be able to be able to speak about these things to my clients, my friends and my family. I want to be educated so that I may educate. All the speakers scheduled are interesting and knowledgeable on the topic of food. Several of them have helped to influence me in this new career I’ve chosen. Being asked to shell out $2,000 to enjoy their talks in person just leaves a sour taste in my mouth.