Kimbal Musk gets real about food

He talked at the World Future Summit.

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) — Kimbal Musk is serious about real food. The entrepreneur shared his vision during a luncheon at the WorldFuture Summit inside the Hilton on Saturday, July 23.

The World Future Society explores trending topics shaping society. Food is Musk's work on inventing a healthier future.

Summit attendees ate kale, bean cakes, quinoa and dessert inspired by a series of restaurants co-founded by Musk. The Kitchen brings locally-sourced produce to diners in Boulder, Colorado, Denver, Chicago and soon, Memphis, Tennessee.

Musk said he wanted to take his restaurant into the nation's heartland to truly affect the food culture. He has also launched the Next Door restaurant offering nutritious food items at an affordable price.

"Twenty percent of our kids go into kindergarten obese. That's not something they did to themselves, that's something we did to them," Musk said to WUSA9.

To educate children on real food, he launched a non-profit organization offering "learning gardens" to public school systems like those in Chicago.

Musk's restaurants and non-profit food education are designed to impact food culture on a large scale. He shared an optimistic outlook of how rising Millennials increasingly care about the source of their food.

Musk said his restaurants have to convince local farmers to grow and deliver food on a new schedule. Creating a new supply chain is challenging. However, the change would help instill community trust back into the food system, he said. 

Musk told the audience not to mind the naysayers. If he and his brother, Elon, had listened to the established car industry, Tesla, the electric car would not exist today, he said. The idea is to reach one small goal at a time.

Musk sits on the boards of Tesla, SpaceX and Chipotle.

Read full Q & A below: 

Q: How did we get to a point where food became so disconnected from people?

Kimbal Musk:
I think what happened in the 60's and 70's, we got really excited about technology and what we could do with it. Television came along and we had this vision of the future where we can sit in front of the TV and eat food.  And we kind of felt this sort of sense of freedom.

But the result was, that with more and more processed food, and more and more TV, and eating in the cars, extremely processed food, the obesity epidemic started to build up. Twenty, 30 years ago, we didn't have the obesity epidemic and now it's extraordinary. Twenty percent of our kids go into Kindergarten obese. That's not something they did to themselves, that's something we did to them.

Q: What is the reaction from the farmers?

Kimbal Musk:

The happiest farmers that I talk to are the ones who are farming real food. So they're growing carrots or they're managing their animals in really healthful ways.

The least happy ones are farming the commodity products like corn and soybeans, because they're stuck in a difficult system where the subsidies keep them there. The infrastructure is already in place from there. And generally, they're much older so, so they're not really able to get excited about change or innovate.

I think the farmers are going to do very, very well, in the real food future. But I think we have to figure out a way to get the ones that are stuck in the old system, we need to give them a path to a real food future.

Q: Do you talk to policymakers in DC?

Kimbal Musk:

Well, I love working with the USDA. I mean I give them advice on how they can participate. They totally understand, and they know they have to be a part of the solution. I love coming to DC for the USDA. And I occasionally meet with a politician every now and then, but I haven't really figured out the politics yet, so.

Q: How can your approach help solve the food desert problem?

Kimbal Musk:
There's two ways to solve it. One is with the industrial food system, which causes an enormous amount of obesity. You can throw fast food chains in there that are just high in fat, sugar and salt. You can solve it with obesity and that's unfortunate, we don't want to go down that path.

So we want to take a food desert and bring real food into that community, which might mean bringing farming back into those urban environments, through indoor vertical farming. It might mean bringing real food restaurants where the food is nourishing to the body, nourishing to the farmer, nourishing to the planet, at a price that they can afford into those communities. And so, I get very excited about that.
 


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