Women Leaders, Dynamic Careers

Food Warriors (left to right): Professor Marion Nestle, author and food movement leader; Nina Ichigawa, Policy Director, Berkeley Food Institute; Haven Bourque, Founder, Haven B Media; Ashara Ekundayo, Chief Creative Director of Oakland’s Impact Hub; and author Michele R. Simon, food policy activist and lawyer.

Food Warriors (left to right): Professor Marion Nestle, author and food movement leader; Nina Ichikawa, Policy Director, Berkeley Food Institute; Haven Bourque, Founder, Haven B Media; Ashara Ekundayo, Chief Creative Officer of Oakland’s Impact Hub; and author Michele R. Simon, food policy activist and lawyer.

By Jillian Steinberger

Last week, around 100 women packed themselves tightly into a gallery space at Impact Hub in downtown Oakland. Ready for lively discussion, they came to see a panel of “women warriors” talk about waging policy initiatives against Big Food. Marion Nestle, the renowned author of many books including Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health and What to Eat, joined other empowered women—lawyer Michele R. Simon and policy director Nina Ichikawa—to model successful careers in the food movement.

What does it take to become an effective change-maker? How do we organize strategically? What issues unite food activists across race, class, culture, and geography? How do we communicate the message, and does it need to be sexy? What do we do when food safety regulations endanger public health, rather than protecting it? Can we speak truth to power—and win—against the likes of Coke and Pepsi?

These are some of the issues that came up.

“We feel it is important to mentor both younger women and women who are now considering applying their skills to food system transformation,” said Haven Bourque, founder of Haven B Media, who organized the panel to honor Nestle. Bourque’s public relations firm represents clients like the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, the Pesticide Action Network, Bi-Rite Markets, City Slicker Farms, and Siren Fish Co.

Bourque says Nestle is “a legend among all food movement activists.” A New York University professor, Nestle is in the Bay Area to lecture at UC Berkeley’s Edible Education 101 class. One of the world’s most powerful foodies, Nestle—a Cal alumna—also writes for publications as diverse as the Berkeley Times, the New York Times, and the World Nutrition Report. She blogs at FoodPolitics.com.

Simon spoke to using legal strategies to counter corporate tactics that harm the public’s health. Her first book, Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back, is required reading in Nestle’s classes. Her website, EatDrinkPolitics.com, is an incisive primer on a wide scope of policy issues.

The third panelist, Nina Ichikawa, is Policy Director at the Berkeley Food Institute. Ichikawa launched the Food and Agriculture section for Hyphen magazine, a print and web publication that tells stories of Asian America.