Live from New York…It’s TEDxManhattan!

Farm to Freezer Debuts on  National Stage

What a thrill it was to share the New York stage with famous food experts, respected CEOs, and budding entrepreneurs! On February 16th, we gathered for the TEDxManhattan Conference to talk about “Changing the Way We Eat”.  The New York audience of 350 people was joined by 70 local viewing parties and an estimated 20,000 people worldwide via webcast. Thanks to an outpouring vote of support for Farm to Freezer, I won the 2013 TEDxManhattan speaker challenge and was awarded the honor of presenting our new social enterprise at this venue. You can view my presentation from this link .

practice dayAs Jill Bamburg, dean of my business school, the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, advised, “get ready for your 12 minutes of fame and use them wisely!” I had a lot to say in those 12 minutes—time strictly enforced, and not much time to explain how we solved the twin problems of having excess donated fresh produce and providing healthier meals to feed the homeless.

I wanted to convey how we went from concept to filling the freezer in just six months. I wanted to share the moment of conception—the idea born exactly a year ago in a casual conversation between me and Sue Kirk, of Bethesda Cares, who received more donated, fresh produce than they could use before it spoiled. I wanted to show how in just 20 weeks we gleaned more than 5,000 lbs. of vegetables from the farmer’s market and preserved it into frozen tomato sauce and vacuum-sealed vegetables.

Homeless man_shutterstock

I wanted to explain the plight of those who are homeless as well as those 1 in 6 Americans, including children, who are food insecure. How their poor diets lead to chronic illnesses. I wanted to cite the recent NRDC report and the sad irony of how American’s waste 40% of all the food produced, including 6 billion pounds of fresh produce that goes unharvested or unsold every year.  I wanted to share the lessons I had learned and offer advice on how others could replicate Farm to Freezer in their communities. And most importantly, I wanted to show how Farm to Freezer creates synergies between community stakeholders.

For the past month, I prepared and honed my talk in front of several live audiences in Bethesda. By the time I boarded the 8 am bus to New York on Friday, I was ready. That afternoon, after a practice and sound check all the speakers and conference attendees headed to a reception at the American Museum of Natural History, where we viewed, “Our Global Kitchen” exhibit while meeting one another.

At exactly 10:30am on Saturday, I got goose bumps as the curtain went up at the Times Center Theater, just off Times Square.  A short film from the TED talk officials welcomed us to today’s conference and told us how this conference was one of hundreds of independently-organized TED talks around the world ‘spreading ideas worth sharing’. The band Ethyl played to open the conference and each speaker offered their ideas—in 12 minute segments throughout the day.

audience_bestThe Glynwood Institute who hosted this conference offered wonderful opportunities for speakers and audience members to network throughout the day, during breaks, at lunch, and a post-conference reception featuring local foods and drink. I was thrilled to be a part of this national dialog and share Farm to Freezer with the 20,000 who tuned in that day, and countless others who will watch via recording.

“I work quite a bit on how much food gets wasted across the country and would love to point to solutions like yours!”–Dana Gunders, NRDC

The ripples of Farm to Freezer are already spreading across the country! Martha Creedon writes, “Totally fired up after watching your TEDxManhattan presentation and want to work on something similar here in Waltham, MA, a city outside of Boston.”

frozen green beans w label

From California, Dana Gunders from NRDC writes, “I work quite a bit on how much food gets wasted across the country and would love to point to solutions like yours!  In fact, I’m presenting to the California Secretary of Agriculture next week and was hoping to get your permission to include your project as a solution case study.”

Farm to Freezer will launch our second season this summer. Sharing our story at TEDxManhattan helps us tremendously on our journey.

Cheryl Kollin

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