Season 2, Ep 06: Championing Food System Transformation: Ambassador Ertharin Cousin’s Quest for a Hunger-Free World

“One in eight people or over 41 million Americans lack consistent and reliable access to nutritious and affordable food. One in four people in a food line is a child,” explains Ambassador Ertharin Cousin, CEO and Founder of Food Systems for the Future, who is on a mission to end hunger and malnutrition and to promote food security both in the U.S. and around the world. Ensuring that all people have consistent access to affordable and nutritious food requires the complementary aspects of advocacy, awareness and capital. Food Systems for the Future achieves its investment impact by taking a 360-degree, wraparound approach, addressing the needs of everyone on the food value chain from the consumer, whose demand for supply is crucial, to the farmer, more and more of whom are being pushed off of the land because they can’t afford to farm.


Despite the many environmental issues–particularly greenhouse gases—linked to food production, it is still barely mentioned in the ongoing conversation on climate change until very recently, and only receives 4% of the funding allotted to combat climate issues. Ambassador Cousin discusses her work to support the poultry value chain in Rwanda–where 30 percent of children are chronically malnourished—by working to create a system which is the first of its kind in the Global South. By providing an alternative feed source to the poultry, not only will this system make eggs more affordable but lessen environmental impact, lower production costs and upcycle food waste, creating a fully circular, sustainable, and affordable alternative to traditional methods. It is an example of global investment and tailored local needs, addressing the macro as well as the micro implications. 


Having grown up in a family of community-minded changemakers, Ambassador Cousin recognizes the power of citizen involvement to create impact. She explains how businesses and individuals can get involved to help promote food systems transformation, which, contrary to popular belief affects both urban and rural communities.


  • “We need to recognize that as we work with affected people, we must build awareness of the need for consumption of more diverse nutritious diets, as well as providing the access to the financial resources and the foods for changing those diets.” (9:36 | Ambassador Cousin)
  • “Communication, credibility, honesty and integrity, and emotional intelligence—everybody is different and the willingness to understand and accept everyone, that everyone brings different perspectives, requires listening and consideration. It is the only way you can lead. If you can do those things, that’s the start of a really good leader.” (13:53 | Ambassador Cousin)
  • “There are a lot of people out here doing advocacy but the challenge is the change is not occurring just because we’re saying the right things. Unless we can move the capital that is necessary to actually scale the change that is required, it’s just talking.” (18:29 | Ambassador Cousin)
  • “Too often when we talk about those who lack access to affordable and nutritious food, we talk about urban communities. Yes, there is a problem in urban communities; there is also a problem in rural America. We are seeing main streets close all across rural America. Those same populations–those with limited incomes, lack of access to transportation, the infirm, the elderly, are affected whether they live in rural Iowa or in the urban center of Chicago.” (31:29 | Ambassador Cousin)
  • “Citizen involvement and engagement  is what helps make this country great.” (50:24 | Ambassador Cousin)