16 Jul 2020

Food Agriculture and Water Club Convenes Experts on Food Security Amid COVID-19


by Shona Simkin

The global coronavirus pandemic has exposed much about the world’s critical infrastructures and systems, including the supply and distribution of food. On Thursday, July 9, the Harvard Business School (HBS) Food, Agriculture, and Water (FAW) club, with Professor Forest Reinhardt, held a Zoom discussion about local and global food security and the implications of COVID-19.

Four panelists, Ambassador Kip Tom (US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture), Barry Knight (SVP, Indigo Agriculture), Ben Riensche (Iowa farmer, manager and owner of Blue Diamond Farming Company), and Charley Cummings (MBA 2011, CEO and founder of Walden Local Meat Company), joined Reinhardt and Pranav Tadi (MBA 2021), in an exploration of the pandemic’s exacerbation of food insecurity and its threats to global food systems.

The panelists brought their extensive experience and knowledge to bear on issues such as global hunger and malnutrition; climate change; worldwide food, information, and commerce systems; supply chains; and potential tools for creating lasting change. Each panelist presented different perspectives and offered insights in taking on the tremendous challenges of the current situation—Ambassador Tom discussed the efforts of the World Food Program; Knight, the promise and limitations of agriculture technology; Riensche, the realities of large-scale farming; and Cummings, hyper-local supply chains and direct-to-consumer sales.

“COVID-19 poses serious long-term health consequences and has exacerbated food security issues globally,” said Tadi. “As the HBS FAW leadership team was thinking through potential summer programming ideas, we decided that there was no topic more timely and relevant than the impact of COVID-19 on our global food systems. Thank you to our panelists, Ambassador Tom, Barry, Ben, and Charley, for a stimulating and inspiring discussion.”

(Begins at 2:06)

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