A Message From Jesse Fink, ReFED's Inaugural Board Chair
Published July 15, 2020
[Note: Jesse Fink's term as Board Chair ended in July. He will continue to serve on the Board of Directors as Chair of the Development Committee.]
Dear ReFED Community:
As I finish my tenure as Founding Board Chair, I wanted to express my deepest gratitude for all that you have done and continue to do to accelerate solutions to food waste. I also wanted to share how much I’m in awe of how the food waste community stepped up to the challenge when the COVID-19 pandemic shined a spotlight on how fragile our food system is – and how vital it is to keep food from being wasted and get it to the most vulnerable communities. Watching all of us in action over these past few months was truly inspirational and makes me more confident than ever that we can reach our long-term goal of a 50 percent reduction in food waste by 2030.
Some of you know that Betsy and I first became interested in food waste as a result of her hands-on experience as the owner of a small farm in Connecticut and our overall interest in solving large-scale environmental issues using a systems approach. Food waste was particularly intriguing to us, since solutions to reduce it would lead to climate change mitigation, environmental resource conservation, economic opportunities, and food justice and food security. As we began to study the issue in 2013, we realized that there wasn’t a central knowledge hub for data and insights, an umbrella organization to connect and convene all the stakeholders in the food waste ecosystem, or a shared, data-driven strategic plan. Through the hard work of so many people and organizations, including many of you reading this, as well as the intellectual and financial support of philanthropic families, foundations, and corporations, ReFED was created in 2015 and soon thereafter published A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste By 20 Percent.
There are a few basic principles that have been consistent from the founding of ReFED to today. The first is the “Big Tent,” that all voices are equal and needed around the table to solve the systemic issues of food waste. Stakeholders include farmers, food businesses, environmental and hunger organizations, investors, policymakers, innovators, the end-user beneficiaries, and more. I’m thrilled that ReFED’s Big Tent has grown bigger each year, and that the door remains wide open to anyone interested in collaborating on this issue.
Data and insights were so important and continue to be so. We recognized that there was not consistent data and that the need for continued data collection, analysis, and research was key. Even more important are the insights gleaned from the data, and those insights often come from ReFED’s relationship with all of you, for which I am grateful. The upcoming release of ReFED’s Insights Engine, which will be a completely updated and evergreen knowledge hub for food waste, is exciting and will prove to be a valuable resource for individuals, businesses, and organizations looking to make an impact in the space.
ReFED was founded on the concept that four levers for change need to be activated and work in tandem: policy, education, financing, and innovation. Over the past five years, we have seen tremendous technology and business model innovation, along with a growing awareness of the problem of food waste and its solutions. We have also seen innovation in policy at the local, state, and federal levels. To reach our 2030 objectives, we need to pull even harder on and coordinate all of these levers.
We have a long way to go on this food waste journey, but I know ReFED and all of you are up for the challenge. I am so honored to be passing the Board Chair baton to Nicola Dixon, who has been an amazing Board member and thought partner at ReFED for several years. I will continue to serve on the Board and do all I can to solve food waste and food equity challenges. With Dana Gunders at the helm as Executive Director and an extremely talented team, ReFED is poised for success and will continue to serve all of you as we collectively work to help people, the environment, and the economy by reducing food waste.
With that, I thank you all again for everything you do and I look forward to continuing our relationship as we pursue our shared vision to create a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive food system.
[Photo: Jesse Fink (center), ReFED Board Member Yalmaz Siddiqui (left) and ReFED Board Chair Nicola Dixon (right) with Ida Posner, Sunny Reelhorn-Parr, and Sara Brown.]