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Paola came on board in February 2021 to tell the Food Planet Prize’s story, amplify that of our top nominees and highlight how food is the key to solving the world’s most pressing issues.

Her overarching responsibility is to ensure that we reach and engage with a growing, relevant audience. This means that she is in charge of developing and implementing strategies as well as analyzing results. She can be writing a press release one day, designing mockups for a new webpage the following, and tweaking our nominations form the one after that. No two days are the same, but one transversal aspect of Paola’s work is crafting narratives that resonate with those who (just like us) want to save the food planet.

Acting as an Editor in Chief, a big part of Paola’s work is to identify untold but important stories. May it be to expose the food system’s many malfunctions or showcase projects that could turn the tide. A passionate writer, she sometimes decides to tell the story herself. Just as often, the job is about hiring the best writer, photographer, or videographer to make ideas come to life.

When you reach out to us, whether you are commenting on our social media posts or making a press request, chances are high you will be talking to Paola. Curious about the person on the other side of the screen? This is her in a nutshell.

Storyteller, but make it intersectional

Paola earned a bachelor’s degree in modern languages and literature in 2009 and a master’s degree in institutional communications two years later. Both from the Université Libre de Bruxelles. After her studies, she tested the waters at digital engagement start-up and agency SocialWall Pro where she managed media and event projects, including Mobile World Congress. But sensitizing the press and the European Parliament to barriers holding people back in Africa was a revelation. The volunteer experience at the ONE Campaign guided a career pivot to serve a higher purpose.

Her new journey brought her to the Migration Policy Group, where she led the European Commission’s primary information hub on migrant and refugee integration. Later at the Stockholm International Water Institute, she mapped out World Water Week’s influence and drafted the conference’s first impact report, along with scenarios for strategic partnerships.

It’s precisely at the intersection of human rights and environmental protection that Paola thrives. She believes we can’t reverse global warming without addressing social injustice, and food is where both problems are most acute. It is also where her passion lies.

All roads lead to the Food Planet

Food Market in Lagos

It all stems from the colors, smells, and ambiance of the markets of Kinshasa – DRC’s capital city nestled along the Congo River. The hours spent strolling around alleys would eventually lead her to the Food Planet Prize. Though she initially expressed her passion through homecooked meals, fine dining, and sustainable consumption. Her calling really took shape through volunteering (again!). When helping launch Brussels’ first cooperative organic supermarket, she knew that unraveling the challenges of today’s food system is what she wanted to dedicate herself to.

Contact Paola with any questions or tips related to our content and press requests. A Belgian citizen with Congolese roots, she speaks English, French, Dutch, Spanish, and Lingala. Be patient while she is learning Swedish, though!

Archives: People

 

Robert joined the Food Planet Prize team in December 2021 as a Nominations Coordinator. A month later, he stepped in as Acting Head of Nominations, covering for Afton Halloran who is on parental leave.

Robert’s main responsibilities are twofold. First, he ensures a steady flow and a diversity of quality nominations. He forages all corners of the globe across sectors to identify groundbreaking projects. He can also count on tips and suggestions from regional scouts to handpick promising ideas.

The second important aspect of Robert’s role is to facilitate the selection of finalists. To that end, he collects information and writes comprehensive background documentation on vetted nominees in preparation for Jury discussions.

And there is much more than meets the eye. But first who is Robert Nylander? What makes him tick? Spoiler alert: food production.

 

Researcher by trade, farmer by heart

Robert has a wealth of experience carrying out research and evaluating agricultural and environmental projects in Europe, Asia, and South America.

He joins Food Planet Prize from Tillväxtverket – the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, where he reviewed applications for the European Regional Development Fund. Before that, he assessed project proposals at Sida – the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

He has also contributed to several research programs in the past 4 years, both nationally and internationally. Notable missions include mapping out watershed management projects at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), analyzing marine environment trends affecting poor coastal communities at Sida, and interviewing Indian farmers using symbiotic microbes as harvest boosters for the development cooperation program Securing Water for Food.

And farming is precisely where Robert’s fascination with food and nature started. As a child, memorable potato harvests at grandma’s farm in Lillström certainly sparked his interest. In this small village located 400 km north of Stockholm, family Nylander would gather every autumn to perform the annual symphony of digging and lifting. And then enjoy the fruit of their labor together.

From agricultural land to the larger environment, there is only one step. Robert holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the University of Gothenburg. For his master thesis, which focused on water and climate governance, he conducted a field study in the Peruvian Andes. Learning about toils facing farmers in Peru and India spurred him to come full circle and now grow his own veggie garden.

 

Science and practice for change

So, a chance to take part in the urgent transition to a sustainable global food system as well as to collaborate with a diverse and passionate group of people motivates Robert to work at Food Planet Prize. And he is a real asset to the team.

On the one hand, his knowledge of environmental, social, and economic sustainability enables cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder analysis. He applies that lens when identifying what makes the initiative he reviews inherently sustainable and scalable. On the other hand, his varied experience allows us to tap into his expansive network of stakeholders. From agronomists to social entrepreneurs and development cooperation professionals, he tirelessly encourages them to spread the word about the Prize and submit nominations all year round.

In his spare time, in addition to keeping abreast of the latest trends of the global food system, Robert enjoys tending his garden, of course! Other hobbies include playing music and wave surfing, even in cold Swedish waters. If that’s not passion, what is? COVID-19 allows, let’s hope he can seek warmer waves soon.

Contact Robert for any nominations-related questions. He speaks Swedish, English, and Spanish.

Archives: People

Former Food Planet Prize Jury Member Jessica Fanzo is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Food Policy and Ethics at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. Professor Fanzo is an expert in the fields of diet, nutrition, and food security. She served as Co-Chair of the Global Nutrition Report and the UN High Level Panel of Experts on Food Systems and Nutrition between 2017 and 2019.


Q: What do you see as the most pressing issue(s) in reshaping the global food system?

To me, the food system is facing 3 major challenges:

  1. Inequitable livelihoods
  2. People’s inability to access healthy diets
  3. Climate disruption

Q: What would you like to achieve by being a member of the Food Planet Prize Jury?

Identify projects that are bold enough to bring about real change.


Q3 What unique experiences or knowledge do you bring to the jury?

I am old and have done a lot in food systems! Kidding aside, I think my extensive experience would be an asset when analyzing projects aiming to improve our diets and nutrition, as that is my expertise.

More about Prof. Fanzo

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Former Food Planet Prize Jury Member Rami Zurayk is a Professor of Ecosystem Management and the Director of the Food Security Program at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at the American University of Beirut. His current research focuses on the relationship between landscapes and livelihoods, food politics, and local food systems. He is a former member of the Steering Committee of the High Level Panel of Experts of the World Commission on Food Security and Nutrition.


Q: What do you see as the most pressing issue(s) in reshaping the global food system?

Equity! The transformation of the global food system will require commitments at various levels: production, value chains, food environments, and consumption. It will also need to engage all actors, from states and governments to civil society. And the issue of equity cuts across all those levels and actors.

Improving food productivity, introducing new technologies, producing more food in a nature-friendly way, and adopting sustainable and healthy diets alone cannot bring about the desired food system transformation. For our food system does not only exploit nature, it’s also built on tremendous inequalities. The ongoing COVID-19 crisis is making it abundantly clear. A sustainable transformation of the food system is one that conserves nature AND enhances social justice.


Q: What would you like to achieve by being a member of the Food Planet Prize Jury?

To help select truly innovative initiatives that have demonstrable and scalable positive outcomes. Projects that can help contribute to environmental and social sustainability, as well as global food system resilience.


Q: What unique experiences or knowledge do you bring to the jury?

A vast experience of the food systems of the Global South. As a natural and social scientist, my ability to evaluate initiatives based on their technical and social merits, as well as their potential contribution to the food system resilience, is also an asset for the Food Planet Prize Jury.

More about Prof. Zurayk

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Food Planet Prize Jury Member Line Gordon is the Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University. Professor Gordon was awarded the Curt Bergfors Foundation Professorship in Sustainability Science with a  Focus on Sustainable Food Systems in February  2021. Her transdisciplinary research addresses food and water as entry points to a more sustainable and resilient biosphere. She is also a board member at the EAT Foundation.


Q: What do you see as the most pressing issue(s) in reshaping the global food system?

Right now, food is at the heart of multiple crises the world is facing, including the Covid-19-pandemic, the global geopolitical tensions accelerated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the climate emergency. Focusing on ensuring the accessibility of healthy and sustainable diets for all is more important than ever.


Q: What would you like to achieve by being a member of the Food Planet Prize Jury?

I would like to instill hope in people. The current environmental crisis can be overwhelming, and, at times, people lose hope. By finding and awarding innovative solutions that can support healthier people and a thriving biosphere, the Food Planet Prize helps illustrate that a sustainable future is possible. As a Jury Member, I get exposed to a range of brilliant initiatives, and the intense discussions in the Jury help me and all other Jurors not only pick the most promising idea but also enrich own our knowledge. We then further spread that knowledge through our respective channels as we continue to work on finding viable pathways forward.


Q: What unique experiences or knowledge do you bring to the Jury?

I bring an in-depth scientific understanding of the role food plays in biosphere resilience and sustainability, as well as a rich experience of transdisciplinary work, i.e. insights on how to collaborate across academic disciplines and with society at large, for maximum impact.

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Food Planet Prize Co-chair Magnus Nilsson is the Director of MAD Academy, a platform for education and inspiration in the restaurant community that aims to make the food system resilient. Author and food philosopher, Magnus Nilsson is also the former chef-restaurateur of the internationally acclaimed Swedish restaurant Fäviken Magasinet.

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Food Planet Prize Jury Member Olivier De Schutter is a Professor of Law at the University of Louvain. Appointed UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights in 2020, he also co-chairs the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food). Professor De Schutter previously served as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food from 2008 to 2014 and as a Member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights from 2015 to 2020.


Q: What do you see as the most pressing issue(s) in reshaping the global food system?

Considerable efforts have been put into balancing efficiency gains and negative environmental, sanitary, and economic externalities of industrial food production. Experts have proposed increased specialization, economies of scale, and a range of technological solutions to manage that equation. In contrast, too little attention has been paid to the structural causes of our inability to change. We should now prioritize reaping the full potential of social innovations and democratizing food policies.


Q: What would you like to achieve by being a member of the Food Planet Prize Jury?

The single most important limiting factor in our ability to reform food systems towards greater sustainability and health is imagination. We need to favor experimentation, learn from what works and make the most promising innovations visible. This is what I hope to contribute to as a Member of the Food Planet Prize Jury.


Q: What unique experiences or knowledge do you bring to the jury?

As a former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, and current co-chair of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems, I continue to be impressed by the diversity of approaches towards improving food systems. However, most scientific publications address challenges facing temperate regions and rich countries. The wealth of innovative practices in tropical regions and dry areas deserve greater recognition and visibility. Being an expert in this area is not about teaching; it’s about learning.

More about Prof. De Schutter

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Food Planet Prize Jury Member Lindiwe Majele Sibanda runs the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Food Systems at the University of Pretoria. Former CEO and Head of Mission of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), Professor Sibanda is also a serving member of Champions 12.3 coalition, and a serving Board member for the  ONE CGIAR, World Vegetable, and Nestlé. She has received numerous awards for her work with agriculture and food security in Africa.


Q: What do you see as the most pressing issue(s) in reshaping the global food system?

To me, there are five pressing issues shaping the global food system:

  1. Ensuring that we deploy technologies that utilize fewer resources while producing more food for the growing population.
  2. Producing healthy, safe, affordable, and accessible foods.
  3. Reducing food loss and waste
  4. Ensuring that climate-smart technologies are upscaled
  5. Making the food systems transformation agenda everybody’s agenda, as everyone has something to contribute – from consumers to producers, processors, distributors, scientists, and policymakers.

Q: What would you like to achieve by being a member of the Food Planet Prize Jury?

My expectations are high and two-fold. First, on a personal level, I see this experience as a great opportunity to learn from fellow Jury members and from the diversity of submitted initiatives we get to evaluate. It will broaden my knowledge and thinking beyond my discipline and connect me with like-minded planet ambassadors, which for me is invaluable. Second, for the common good, I hope to find genuine innovations and new paradigms that will benefit our planet.


Q: What unique experiences or knowledge do you bring to the jury?

Farming is in my blood. I am a practicing farmer but also an animal scientist who has worked as an agricultural researcher, an entrepreneur, and a policy advisor to numerous governments in Africa, as well as in international private and public institutions.

So, I understand science, business, and sustainable food systems policy development, as well as what this means at the grassroots level.

More about Prof. Lindiwe Sibanda

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Food Planet Prize Jury Co-Chair Johan Rockström is a Professor in Earth System Science at the University of Potsdam and the Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Professor Rockström also chairs the advisory boards of the EAT Foundation and the Earth League. He is recognized globally for leading the development of the Planetary boundaries concept.


Q: What do you see as the most pressing issue(s) in reshaping the global food system?

There are, as I see it, two overarching and interlinked challenges:

  1. To transform the global food system from being the single largest cause behind transgressing planetary boundaries to becoming a system that delivers food to all people within the safe operating space on Earth. This means food systems that go from source to sink, close nutrient loops, halt expansion into intact ecosystems, minimize chemical pollution, and stop overusing freshwater.
  2. To transform food consumption and improve access to healthy diets that can halt the slow pandemic of 10-11 million people dying prematurely each year due to unhealthy food.

Q: What would you like to achieve by being a member of the Food Planet Prize Jury?

Contribute to the Prize successfully developing into a lever of change that boosts the development and implementation of innovative food solutions, in pace and scale.


Q: What unique experiences or knowledge do you bring to the jury?

I am an Earth system scientist, with my feet in both food systems and sustainable transformation research. I am also quite closely connected to the science-business-policy sphere on food and sustainable development.

More about Prof. Johan Rockström

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Food Planet Prize Jury Member Franco Fubini is the Founder and CEO of Natoora, a seasonal produce supplier that works directly with over 600 small-scale farmers and over 2000 restaurants in London, Paris, Copenhagen, New York, Miami, and Melbourne. Fubini is a passionate advocate for radical change across the food system, from transforming the way food is farmed to educating consumers on the impact of their food choices.



Q: What do you see as the most pressing issue(s) in reshaping the global food system?

It all comes down to the systematic de-education of consumers from the powerful industrial food system. A system that functions on a devastating combination of exceptional momentum and inertia. One in which complacency, uniformity, and efficiency override singularity.


Q: What would you like to achieve by being a member of the Food Planet Prize Jury?

The Food Planet Prize magnifies two principles that are at the core of my vision for a stronger food system: innovation and accessible scale. The opportunity to, not only learn firsthand about the transformative ideas and developments springing up across the globe, but also to see them through the eyes of such a multidisciplinary jury is invaluable. Going forward, I will undoubtedly draw from these fresh perspectives to help build a resilient, restorative and equitable food system through personal action and Natoora.


Q: What unique experiences or knowledge do you bring to the jury?

Since founding Natoora, I have spent two decades tackling the issues facing our food system head-on. Now connecting over 600 growers, 1600 world-leading chefs, and over 46,000 households across two continents, I find myself uniquely placed to put forward both ground-level and top-line experiences in farming and supply chain.

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