Stories / Impact

Small Steps for Big Change

Maggie Borden

October 03, 2016


The issues plaguing our food system are grave—looming specters like food waste, climate change, and poor childhood nutrition are vast in scope and infinitely complex. Yet, as many inspiring leaders and advocates have shown, planting small seeds of change can yield a remarkable crop. With that in mind, we tasked this year’s JBF Leadership Award recipients and our Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change alumni to come up with practical steps that any individual can take today to help improve our food system. From buying local to speaking up to simply saying no, the tips proposed by these passionate advocates prove that there’s a lot we all can do to achieve real change.


Paul Fehribach
Big Jones

Each individual must make the conscious decision not to consume seafood or animal products that come from unsustainable sources or are produced using sub-therapeutic antibiotics. Vigilance is required of each of us to be informed about the food system and resist unwise choices. It really is about just saying no.

Ann Cooper
Chef Ann Foundation
Boulder, CO

The kindergarteners of today will grow up to be the farmers, policymakers, and consumers of the future. We can teach our kids about the connection between their food, their health, and their planet, and we can do this by changing the way we feed our children at school. Changing an entire school food system may seem like a big task, but it only takes a little time to do one thing. Go eat school lunch with your child. Help your local school district craft their health and wellness goals. Participate in public awareness campaigns that bring attention to the issue. Individuals across the country can affect BIG change if together we all make small steps in the right direction.

JBF Leadership Award Winners
Greg Asbed and Lucas Benitez
Co-Founders of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Backyard gardening and supporting local, organic farms are important, but we can’t stop there. We’ll never eat our way out of the vast fields that feed hundreds of millions of Americans every day at the cost of incalculable human exploitation and environmental damage. Rather, we have to change the way we use our voices as consumers. We must demand change from the corporations that control our food system today—demand it loudly, insistently, in the streets and even in the aisles of our local supermarkets, if necessary—because silence will only mean more of an unacceptable status quo. Let’s change the way we eat, but let’s also stand up and make some noise. 

Steven Satterfield
Miller Union

My top five recommendations for what you can do now to change the food system:

1. Eat more fruits and vegetables and eat less meat. If our demand for meat at every meal could decrease, we could make a huge collective difference.

2. Reduce food waste. Be conscious of how you are purchasing and be realistic about when you will be around to prepare it and eat it. It’s better to buy fresh food every couple of days than to stockpile your groceries in large quantities.

3. Compost. Start composting at home, at work, at school: there are several kits out there from DIY to mack-daddy barrels.

4. Grow your own food. If you’re in charge, you call the shots.

5. Vote for your food. Find out where your congresspeople stand on food issues. They work to represent you, so if you voice your opinion, you just might make them think twice.

Annie Pettry
Louisville, KY

Make your choices count. Choose the food you buy: where did that tomato come from? Is it January? Don’t buy that tomato. Is it July? There are farmers near you growing amazing tomatoes—buy the tomato from them. Choose to cook: make meals at home using whole ingredients. Can’t pronounce the ingredients in that? Don’t use it. Choose whom you support: eat at restaurants that share your food philosophy. Choose to teach: share your knowledge with the community. Teach a kid how to buy, cook, and eat responsibly.

JBF Leadership Award Winner
Raj Patel
Author, Activist, and Academic

We won’t find a better world at the bottom of our individual grocery carts. We’ll find it through movement. The good news is that there are movements all around you: in your place of worship, your union, your cooperative, your school, your retirement community, or your city council. Listen for the voices talking about food justice. If you can’t hear them, become that voice and you’ll soon be in a chorus.


Our 2016 JBF Leadership Award recipients will be honored at a ceremony on Monday, October 17, in New York City. To learn more, visit

In anticipation of our upcoming JBF Food Conference, we're looking through the lens of our recently launched JBF Impact Programs, which aim to promote a sustainable food system through education, advocacy, and thought leadership.

See all JBF Impact content here.