“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Dan Millman
I come from a family of immigrants and was the first US-born citizen in my family and the first to graduate from university. I was born in Detroit amid the Vietnam War when major societal upheavals and change was taking place. My mother was actively involved in social justice issues at that time. She carried that rebellious spirit with her throughout her life.
My parents divorced when I was young, and soon after, my sisters and I moved to Chicago, where I grew up. I always had an entrepreneurial spirit and enjoyed working leading other eight-year-old kids to cold call on neighbors' doors to shovel snow, cut lawns, and numerous other side hustles. Before I was legally eligible to work, I worked at a bakery, pumped gas and cleaned hubcaps, then legally preparing food in the school cafeteria starting in the fifth grade and working at the local sporting goods store through high-school nights and weekends.
Even though I grew up in the suburbs near a major city, we fortunately had access to forest preserves and conservation areas where I spent countless hours with my friends. The lagoon was my Walden Pond observing the life cycle of frogs, crayfish, butterflies, turtles, birds, countless insects, and keenly observing the many wildflowers and aquatic plants that bordered the lagoon. We would forage mulberries, milkweed, Queen Anne's lace, and much more. These experiences were fundamental to my appreciation for nature and the environment. They served as an escape from my mundane suburban existence.
Inspired by books like On the Road, Small is Beautiful, and Johnathan Livingston Seagull, after graduating from high school I solo backpacked through Europe and North Africa, building my appreciation for diverse cultures and their respective foodways. Some of my fondest trip memories were experiencing foods with locals and how partaking in culinary traditions evaporated cultural and language barriers like magic.
I went on to university, and after graduating, I joined the Peace Corps working on micro-enterprise development and micro-lending programs in the Dominican Republic. One of my first projects was to collect data on small entrepreneurs in my community, including vendors at the municipal market. The data collected, quantifying economic impact of the informal economy, led to paving of the roads around the market by the local government, improving hygiene for the market vendors, their customers, and the community.
After Peace Corps, I continued my studies and also met my life-partner, Paloma Lopez, in San Francisco while doing our first master’s degree together. I landed my first job post-graduation moving to Mexico to improve labor conditions in the apparel industry and then working in over forty countries over the years as an intrapreneur at Gap Inc., Burberry, and Apple in the field of sustainability.
I found the work challenging and exciting, but after reflection felt that much of these efforts were delivering incremental change feeling like Sisyphus rolling a boulder up the hill only for it to roll back down again. Hence, I decided to pivot my career, take a leap of faith and focus my energy on transformative business models of change as a social entrepreneur landing my first role as a co-founding team and the CSO of www.fairphone.com, the world’s first ethical and modular smartphone now with over 80 employees and then several other social enterprises.
The road less traveled to Future Fit Foods (FFF) was hatched while Paloma and I were on the way exploring foodways across Asia, Africa, Central Asia in 2019, and sharing these experiences and our search for circular and humanizing foods on Instagram @projectnext2020. Check it out!
Food is powerful and can be the great convener bringing us together in community around the fire, a table, or on a blanket. But the food that we choose is also a political act and has vast implications on issues like social justice, income inequality, and environmental sustainability.
We simply cannot return to destroying value through our take, make, waste models of the past post COVID19. We must move to circular food models, creating more value than we destroy, producing, and delivering convenient foods that are not only nutritive to humanity but also our planetary system.
I am hopeful that COVID19 and the societal changes that the pandemic has forced on us will lead to more mindfulness and compassion in society, prompting more significant questions about what “progress” really means and how that “progress” should be measured.
We at Future Fit Foods look to continuing fighting the good fight with you to a more circular, just, and humanized food system. Please join us to create the future of food we collectively want to see.