SXSW “The Future of Food” Q&A with Whitney Strauss

April 5, 2023


When you think of South by Southwest® (SXSW®), what comes to mind?

If you’re like most people, your thoughts immediately turn to music and concerts. But there is so much more to this annual event in Austin, Texas, including tech, film, culture – and even food!

During 2023’s SXSW event, Sunwest Senior Counsel – CSR & Philanthropic Services Whitney Strauss had the privilege of speaking at The Future of Food, which provided a forum for attendees to learn about cutting-edge innovations, connect with peers, and share insights.

With a strong passion for finding solutions to equitable food access, Whitney shared with us more about why The Future of Food was such an impactful event.

Q: What, exactly, was The Future of Food about?
A: The Future of Food was one of the tracks during SXSW where attendees could learn about a particular topic – in this case, food – and share insights on creating a more just and sustainable future as it relates to food. This event ran from March 9 – 11 and each day was packed with speakers/panels and demonstrations. I had the opportunity to experience it all – I met the chefs, conferred with other speakers, took copious notes, and tasted everything! I learned so much, from alternative protein sources (aka crickets) to sustainable agriculture, and how all of this relates to the quality of our food and environmental sustainability. I’m still enjoying the bag full of products I brought home!

Q: What did the speakers discuss with attendees?
A: Many of the speakers were there to share the latest and greatest food innovations – chefs, products, production, etc. Sunwest’s good friend Benaye Wadkins Chambers, the CEO of Crossroads Community Services, myself, and a few more speakers were selected to discuss solutions to ensure everyone in every community has the opportunity to access healthy food. It was both exhilarating and intimidating to be there. There were people from all over the world and experts in their fields that took part in the activities. It was clear that every attendee left inspired, educated, and ready to make change.

Q: What did you and Benaye share during your presentation?
A: Benaye and I spoke about local solutions to food insecurity and building nutrition-stable communities. Some of the topics we touched on were:

  • Developing a more equitable and empowered solution
  • What communities should consider as solutions to address the “hunger cliff” as additional SNAP benefits end and rising food costs squeeze more families
  • What communities should think about when they are considering access related to social determinants of health

Q: Why is the topic of equal access to food so important to you?

A: My involvement in addressing food insecurity started more than 20 years ago. My experience and personal passion culminated in the opportunity to be the Executive Director of the AdvoCare Foundation and support organizations across the U.S. In this position, I was able to focus on the important work of providing access to healthy food and nutrition education. It’s also the focus of my dissertation for the doctorate degree I’m currently completing. I don’t think my passion will ever dissipate when it comes to shedding more light on – and finding possible solutions for – the issues facing communities who don’t have access to healthy food.

Click below to watch a portion of Whitney and Benaye’s discussion!