Northam to deliver food policy address at Chesapeake Food Summit
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, will deliver his first major address on food policy and regional food issues at an event called the Chesapeake Bay Food Summit to be held Sept. 24-25 at Union Market in Washington.
“The Chesapeake Food Summit: Together from Farm to Fork” is billed as a forum to build a regional food system that brings together food companies and employees with a goal of ensuring access to nutritious food for all in the Chesapeake Bay area.
But its list of speakers and agenda signal that it will have national policy organizing repercussions to continue many of the policy goals that were highlighted during the Obama administration and that have been on the sidelines since President Donald Trump took office.
The summit is sponsored by Washington Regional Food Funders, which describes itself as “a network of philanthropists, foundations, and companies working together to foster a sustainable, equitable, and thriving food system in the Chesapeake region.”
The summit will be produced by Arabella Advisors, a firm headed by Eric Kessler, who has advised philanthropic organizations and foundations across the country on how to achieve their food policy goals. Kessler was particularly close to former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during the Obama administration, although he remained in the private sector.
The summit is co-chaired by former Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, who has continued her anti-hunger work since her husband, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left office, and by Seth Goldman of Honest Tea and Beyond Meat, Haile Johnston of The Common Market, Jodie McLean of Edens, and Ryan Shadrick Wilson of Boardwalk Collective.
Speakers at the Chesapeake Food Summit in addition to Northam include food entrepreneurs Goldman and Brett Schulman of Cava; and senior leadership from Goldman Sachs, Sysco, Whole Foods Market, Mars, Danone North America, and Perdue. Groups leading efforts to fight hunger, racial and workforce inequalities, and environmental threats, including DC Central Kitchen, the Black Church Food Security Network, Martha’s Table and the Food Trust, are also on the agenda.
Land O’Lakes tweeted this week that it will make a “big announcement” at the event. The Minneapolis-based dairy cooperative will be represented by Jason Weller, senior director of its SUSTAIN business unit that focuses on ensuring sustainable crop production by delivering insights, products and services for member-growers. Weller was chief of the Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in the Obama administration.
Danone will be represented by Chris Adamo, its vice president for federal and industry affairs who was chief of staff at the Council on Environmental Quality in the Obama administration and a top aide to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., when she chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Local investor Gabrielle Rubenstein will discuss how her newly launched food business investment fund will impact the regional food system. Honest Tea’s Goldman and Cava’s Schulman will tell their stories of building national and global food brands that launched in the Chesapeake region. And community leaders will discuss their work to support the food chain workforce, overhaul how school and health care institutions source their food and influence the farm bill currently before a congressional conference committee.
The summit will include plenary sessions addressing the state of the region’s food system and cross-sector efforts to strengthen it, small group discussions addressing best practices and barriers to food system improvement, interactive demos, opportunities to connect and network across typical sector divisions, Kessler said in a news release. There will also be food offerings from across the region.