That’s a Wrap: A Look Back at the 2016 Transforming Food Access Summit

Wholesome Wave’s first annual Transforming Food Access Summit: Accelerating Affordability with Nutrition Incentives (January 11-13 in Atlanta) sold out in just a month and convened over 300 leading speakers and attendees. Diverse participants in government, academia, business, health care, agriculture and beyond, from 28 states and D.C.—Arkansas to Minnesota, Kentucky to Illinois—covered a wide range of topics on how nutrition incentives support a sustainable and equitable food system. The summit’s hashtag was also its mission: #fixfood.


The sold-out Summit featured thought leaders from across the country.

Together attendees parsed some of the food system’s most pressing issues and shared best practices for national network programming, local program design, policy change and sustainability. Workshops and plenaries focused on actionable steps to create, evaluate, sustain and scale high-impact programs.

Michel & Deb

Meeting of the Minds: Our Founder & CEO, Michel Nischan, with Executive Director of Let’s Move, Deb Eschmeyer

Panel Day 1

Day 1: Lorelei DiSogra of United Fresh Produce, Dominque Hazzard of DC Greens, and Joh Piotti of Maine Farmland Trust situate nutrition incentives within the food system landscape.


Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services at USDA offers opening remarks at the Summit.

Leaders from the CDC, AARP, the National WIC Association, universities & nonprofits across the country led plenary discussions that honed in on how nutrition incentives can transform food access. The three days were packed with knowledge-sharing and presentations that outlined challenges & actionable steps for change. The 75 breakout presenters and 34 plenary panelists included a diverse array of national leaders including:

  • Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, USDA, referenced the new Dietary Guidelines’ call for Americans to eat more fresh produce, asking “what better way than through farmers markets?”
  • John Auerbach, Associate Director for Policy, CDC, hailed Wholesome Wave’s successes on both local and community levels.Debra Eschmeyer, Executive Director of Let’s Move! and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy at the White House, pointed out that 2/3rds of SNAP benefits go to families with children, exclaiming “This should never be on the cutting block.
  • Oran Hesterman, CEO of Fair Food Network said: “Offering incentives at grocery stores does not mean giving up our commitment to locally-grown.”
  • Memarie Tsosie, Food Access Manager from Partners in Health working in Navajo Nation, pointed out that the “Majority of Native Americans on reservations have to drive more than an hour to buy groceries.” This has to change.
  • Elanor Starmer, Senior Advisor to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack argued: “If we really want to change the way we eat, to change our food system, we have to be engaged in policy.”

Press & Social Media

Kim Severson of the New York Times attended and tweeted about the summit. Modern Farmer acted as media sponsor, covering the Summit over Twitter and Instagram to a combined audience of over 70,000.

The digital conversation during the Summit showed high engagement. The #FixFood hashtag reached 857,747 people and could have been viewed by over 4 million people. We saw exciting spikes in likes, replies, retweets and overall impressions, during the three days of the summit.


We saw a dramatic spike in twitter impressions during the 3-day summit.

Twitter also offered a platform for followers to extend the conversation inside the room and across the country. We saw hundreds of summit-related tweets and re-tweets, For example:

Erin Shirl

DC Greens

Chefs’ Potluck

On the Summit’s opening evening, four of Chef Nischan’s peers—Hugh Acheson, Linton Hopkins, Anne Quatrano, and John Mitchell hosted a dinner at the acclaimed Floataway Café for attendees to continue conversations over sustainable Georgia harvests.


Bean & radish salad prepared by Hugh Acheson at the Chefs’ Potluck.


Wholesome Wave Founder & CEO, Michel Nischan, second from right, with the Chefs’ Potluck superstars: Hugh Acheson, Linton Hopkins, Anne Quatrano, and John Mitchell.

Looking Ahead

Wholesome Wave Founder & CEO Michel Nischan, said “The Summit provided an opportunity to be reminded of why we do what we do, how awesome the people that we work with in the field are, how incredibly important the work is, and how successful we’ve been toward changing the world we eat in.”

If you’re interested in taking a deeper dive into content shared at the Summit, we’ll soon be sharing all of the PowerPoint presentations via our website.

Thank you to our sponsors:

The Summit’s success would not have been possible without the support of our sponsors: Farm Credit Council, Fresh Sound Foundation, Delta, Kresge Foundation, and our media sponsor Modern Farmer.

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Photo credits: Adam Komich.

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