WDI April Speaker Asks: ‘Can a Hamburger Build World Peace?’

Friday, March 23, 2018

Members of the LIFE project consortium visit a produce stand in Turkey and interviews the owner on how a green grocer sources his produce and his perspective on how he could potentially benefit from the LIFE Food Enterprise Center.


Food can be a powerful means to a more peaceful world because it encourages conversation, cross-cultural engagement and understanding during troubled times, according to the next speaker for the WDI Global Impact Speaker Series.

Johanna Mendelson Forman, a leading voice in the emerging movement of gastrodiplomacy and social gastronomy, will talk about how food can promote social good at her talk, “Can a Hamburger Build World Peace? Lessons on How Food Builds Community One Plate at a Time.” Her talk will be at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 4 in Room R2220 at the Ross School of Business. It is free and open to the public.

Mendelson Forman

Mendelson Forman said a revolution is building in which food has become a vehicle for a generation that features chefs as political actors, farmers as champions of environmental sustainability and businesses that have embraced the belief that investment in the entire supply chain is good for business. Young social entrepreneurs are combining food and their business expertise to promote social good with new apps and new inventions. Refugees are learning to cook in their new land in order to gain respect and sow hope.

Everyone has memories about dishes they ate growing up,” said Kristin Babbie Kelterborn, a WDI senior project manager. “Many times, these recipes have been passed down through generations, giving us a way to feel connected to our culture, bond with others and shape our identity. In many cultures, food is incredibly significant; it is a way of showing hospitality, love and respect.”

“Dr. Mendelson Forman’s presentation will provide insight on what happens when people from different backgrounds share their food cultures with one another. She will talk about a food entrepreneurship project that WDI is currently involved in, which uses food to promote cross-cultural exchange between refugees and host communities in Turkey.”

Under WDI’s Entrepreneurship Development Center, Kelterborn is working on a project, led by the Center for International Private Enterprise and implemented with a consortium of U.S. and Turkey-based partners that aims to develop sustainable livelihoods in the food sector for Syrian refugees and their host communities in Turkey. The project, “Livelihoods Innovation through Food Entrepreneurship,” or LIFE, is establishing Food Enterprise Centers in two Turkish cities to provide business support services to 240 entrepreneurs over two years. The centers will serve as incubators, offering kitchen space and business support services. In addition, the centers will host gastrodiplomacy events using food as a means to promote cross cultural understanding. Mendelson Forman is leading the gastrodiplomacy component of the LIFE project. Sponsored by the US State Department, the consortium includes partners IDEMA (International Development Management), Union Kitchen and The Stimson Center, as well as CIPE and WDI. 

Mendelson Forman is an adjunct professor at the School of International Service at American University in Washington, D.C. where she created an interdisciplinary course, Conflict Cuisine®: An Introduction to War and Peace Around the Dinner Table. She is a distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center, where she heads the Food Security Program.  

She also has written extensively about food, conflict and Latin America, and has lectured on food-related topics at the Smithsonian Resident Associates Program, Johns Hopkins University Bologna Campus, New York University’s Washington Program and at the United States Pavilion of the 2015 World Expo in Milan, Italy.  

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