Dan Simons Talks Family Farmers & Plastic at Food Tank Summit

Owner Dan Simons joined a panel of food service experts at this year’s Food Tank Summit in DC, Cultivating the Next Generation of Young Food Leaders.

The panel, called Building Innovative Alliances, was moderated by the Science and Health Editor for Vox, Eliza Barclay. Other panelists included: Amber Lambke, President and CEO, Maine Grains; Bennett Haynes, Chief of Produce, Beefsteak; Jessie Bovay, Director of Business Development, Mercaris; and Logan Peterman, Agricultural Research & Analytics Manager, Organic Valley.

Simons talked about the importance of buying from family farms, rather than corporations. “Individual people make better long-term decisions for themselves and the people around them than for-profit companies do. When we see a term like ‘organic,’ we still have to ask who produced it.” He asked the audience, “What’s more important to you as a consumer: an organic label or knowing the direct source of your food?” This question opened the floor up to a lively discussion.

Referencing our recent company-wide switch to using paper straws, or no straws at all in many of our drink selections (instead of our previous compostable straws), Simons also talked about moving some of our sustainability practices beyond the four walls of our restaurants. He is currently engaged in coalition building efforts to help ban plastic straws across DC. Plastic water bottles, bags, and straws are contributing to far too much plastic in our landfills and waterways, harming fish, people, and the planet.

When asked by an audience member what other areas need work across our food system, Simons encouraged everyone to start working on changing food packaging, and challenging its manufacturers to seek alternatives. “Carefully growing crops, often organic, and producing delicious food, and then wrapping it in chemically-laden plastic and cellophane is the next hurdle in the food service industry. That needs to change.”

Food Tank is a think tank for food, with a mission to create lasting food system change by building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters. They aim to educate and advocate, spotlighting and supporting environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty. Their Food Tank Summits bring together some of the world’s most impactful food system leaders for discussion, innovation, and change. Each event features interactive panels moderated by top food journalists.