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TEDxManhattan's 'Changing The Way We Eat' Conference Raises Question: What Is A Food Movement?

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Better access to healthy foods was one of the many topics discussed at the TEDxManhattan "Changing The Way We Eat" conference. | Shutterstock

There are few events that bring such diverse groups as farmers, professors, activists, CEOs and small business owners together into one room. But perhaps even more rare is to watch them (mostly) agree with one another. On Feb. 16, TEDxManhattan hosted the third annual "Changing The Way We Eat" conference. It was a full day of speeches that ranged from topics such as how food and faith are connected to why small farmers are struggling today.

Among the many inspirational lines uttered and the numerous calls to action, there remained one unifying thread that put subjects like environmental racism, sustainable pork and fracking on level ground. This thread -- the idea of a food movement -- was echoed throughout the day. Several speakers referenced this movement, though no one attempted to define it.

In November, Omnivore's Dilemma author Michael Pollan appeared on HuffPost Live and said "I think there is a food movement rising." In the appearance, Pollan offered some context to hot-button topics such as organic food and labeling genetically-modified (GMO) food.

But what exactly is a food movement? Is it the idea that everyone should be eating more sustainably? Or that we should be paying farmers more? That we all need to be pressuring food companies to make a better commitment to health? That more people need to understand what food justice entails?

One thing that is clear about the movement, and something echoed throughout the TEDx speeches, is the unanimous agreement that the food system in the United States is broken. The disagreement arises when it comes to fixing it. The dozens of suggestions included paying people a living wage, caring more about seeds, mandating GMO labeling, eating more weeds, eating less junk food, eating more whole foods, wasting less food, protesting fracking, pressuring companies for more sustainable meat, encouraging more people to be farmers, offering better school lunches and paying more for quality food.

Sound like a lot? Anna Lappe, HuffPost blogger, sustainable food advocate and author, spoke at TEDxManhattan about junk food consumption, and may have summed up what everyone was thinking.

"What we're talking about doing is huge," she said. "We're talking about changing social norms."

All speeches are available to watch online here.

UPDATE: Here's a highlight reel:

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