Background image of Chelsea Clinton stands at the podium and addresses an audience of 100 people in the Billy Frank, Jr. Conference Center

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Chelsea Clinton encourages kids to consider the future of food

A special visit from the author and Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation opens a box of big ideas, tailored to inspire action in kids.

This year, we’ve had the privilege of welcoming a number of food system movers and shakers to the Natural Capital Center. However, while many of our conversations have addressed what the future of the food system looks like, few have included those who will own this work 20 years from now: kids.

Chelsea Clinton wants kids to know that the time is now to create a vision for the future of food, and that adults should pay attention.

This year, Clinton published It’s Your World, a book focused on middle school students, offering them primer of today’s challenges and ideas to contribute to the solutions.

“Kids deserve to know about world challenges and be empowered to do something about these challenges,” Clinton said. “I feel like food is a big area where kids can make a difference.”

Clinton was joined by three regional food system innovators: Curt Ellis, co-founder and CEO of Food Corps, Gina Condon of Construct Foundation, and Susannah Morgan, CEO of the Oregon Food Bank.

A mid-day event that would have normally been populated by the downtown lunch crowd was also attended by a dozen or more kids, eager to hear from and meet Clinton.

Amanda Oborne, Ecotrust’s Vice President of Food and Farms, kicked off the panel directly addressing the kids in the audience: “To the kids in the room, the food system you’re inheriting is a mess. The food system riddle is one your generation will solve. You will figure out how to feed nine billion people. You will get to decide what to eat. We want to set you up for success.”

Curt Ellis believes that farm to school programs directly help kids find that future success.

“Food is thrilling because it is a chance for us to begin taking ownership,” said Ellis. “You realize you have the power to change the world around you.”

However, across Oregon, despite advances in support for programs like farm to school, many kids still face food insecurity and hunger.

Susannah Morgan is all too familiar with the stark numbers around hunger in Oregon, noting that 800,000 people in the state live with food insecurity. But, she said, there is great hope for change.

Her hopeful attitude found good company with Clinton who noted, “I’m an inveterate optimist. Cynicism supports the status quo and I’m not interested in that.”

In our rapidly changing world full of complex social, environmental, and economic challenges, it can be all too easy to let cynicism trump optimism. We’re glad to have Clinton on the side of hope for the future of food.