The Global Future of Food and the Future of My Food in November

I was one of the lucky ones to receive an invitation to the New York Times first conference on the Future of Food. It is coming up in just a few weeks now, and I'm looking forward to attending and learning from some of the best minds in the industry with respect to how we should eat and how we should feed the poor, both from a health standpoint and from a sustainability standpoint. And it truly will be a learning experience for me.

And a culinary one as well. It's being hosted by Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, NY (just north of New York City and the Tappanzee Bridge). Food will be created by Dan Barber, who is co-owner and executive chef at Blue Hill in New York City and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Dan Barber is also author of The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, an excellent book on the current state of our nation's food system and how it needs to evolve. He also served on President Obama's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

Based on those credentials, I expect that the food served will be very good, sustainable and healthy. And it would seem that a conference like this, which is being facilitated by Mark Bittman of The New York Times and attended by speakers like Michael Pollan and  Dr. Peter Gleick, would fit right into the whole foods, plant-based lifestyle. It's about food; it's about health; and it's about sustainability.

Even so, I've been apprehensive about how I would eat there. After all, the conference includes two lunches, one breakfast and one dinner. And while I've been certain that the food would be considered healthy, I've had to wonder by whose definition of healthy. For example, a gold sponsor of the conference is a company that makes Greek yogurt. By many standards, that's healthy, but by my standards it is not. And while authors like Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan are both writers who have been attractive to those of us on a whole foods, plant-based diet, neither one of them abstains completely from animal products or from oils. Nor does the chief chef, Dan Barber.

I think my concerns have been somewhat alleviated however. Last night I received a form to submit back to the conference organizers to let them know which meals I would be attending and how I eat. Options were No Dietary Restrictions, Vegetarian, Vegan, Kosher and Gluten-Free. While not perfect, that worked. I say not perfect because you could only check one, so it leaves out those who are both vegan and gluten-free. And of course, there was no option for no oil. But at least, I feel better that I will be able to substantially adhere to the whole foods, plant-based diet while there.

We're coming up to the holiday season, and I certainly don't want to start November off on the wrong foot. The holidays are challenging enough. Instead I want to come back from this conference armed with lots of good information and lots of things learned. I don't profess to know everything. But I want to write more about how a whole food, plant-based diet fits into issues like food sustainability and food security. It's not just our health that's at stake. It's also the health of others around the world and the health of our planet itself. It's a big issue. There will be lots to talk about in November. I'm looking forward to it.