Changemaker Voices: Yuka Nagashima of Food Shift

Food Shift is a Bay Area organization that rescues food that would otherwise be wasted and offers plant-forward meals to those in need during the COVID-19 crisis – benefitting both people and the planet! In their own words: “Located in California's Bay Area, Food Shift develops practical solutions to reduce wasted food, feed our neighbors, and provide jobs. Since 2012, we have developed models for a just and sustainable food system. We address food waste through food recovery and distribution, recouping that would-be waste to nourish our community, not our landfill. Our operation is a social enterprise that provides training and jobs for people overcoming barriers to employment. With Eat the Change's support, we are filling gaps in the food supply chain caused by the COVID pandemic, to combat rising food waste and food insecurity and provide climate-friendly, plant-based meals to our most vulnerable neighbors, including people who are houseless, low-income, disabled, and elderly.” Food Shift operates under fiscal sponsorship of the Earth Island Institute.

Picture of Yuka NagashimaWhat is your role at Food Shift?

My title is Executive Director. My role is putting together a framework for my team to be able to lead themselves to benefit the community we serve. It often means having clarity, then communicating that, in times of uncertainty. 

How would you describe your community? What makes it unique?

The Food Shift community is diverse, wearing many hats: wholesale grocers, food manufacturers, markets are donors of food that would otherwise go to waste, and also potential employers for our graduates; volunteers who help us sort produce are also donors; our apprentices overcoming employment barriers through our internship program are in many ways our teachers.

How is the concept of change important to your work? What kind of change does Food Shift hope to bring about?

We are shifting the way people think about food: it's much more than a source of nutrients, but what nourishes our soul, connections to our culture and community. It is a product of many resources, from water and fertilizer to the people who grew it, worked hard to purchase it, and cooked it. The act of eating celebrates all of that. More fundamentally, we are shedding light to the root cause of hunger: financial insecurity.

 

What has Food Shift been up to since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Recovering over 150,000 pounds of overlooked food and finding homes for it! Brokering connections within our community so our food ecosystem is more resilient.

Lotus food donations

What are your biggest challenges right now?

COVID, for two reasons: 1) We need to be able to offer a safe environment for our apprentices to learn and work together, and 2) it has unfortunately encouraged funders to give nationally to established programs, when feeding people is a hyper local activity.

What is inspiring you right now?

The quality of people I get to work with every day and the generosity of our community, particularly when contrasted with the systemic racial injustices. We have the pieces for a solution!

If you were a plant or a fungi, what would you be?

Kelp: happy in the ocean. Plus, in the kitchen, it serves as a provider of umami and a foundation for a complex flavor, bringing out the quality of other ingredients.

ETC Impact is a grant program working to promote and expand access to climate-friendly foods. We’re investing $1 million over three years to support a diverse group of national and community based Changemakers. 

Note: Photographs taken before the COVID-19 pandemic. Food Shift is now adhering to all appropriate safety protocols.

 


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