Chiara Cecchini

CEO & Co-Founder of Future Food Americas

At her international NGO, Future Food Institute, Chiara Cecchini aims to inspire and empower individuals, companies, and communities to rethink our food system. She is a Research Scholar at UC Davis, building food system semantics to enable food care. Chiara is an Advisory Board member at Maker Faire and is part of the Expert Network at the World Economic Forum. She is also Fundraising Coordinator for GrassRoots Hub, Ghana, an SDGs Innovation Lab created to support the local entrepreneurship. In the last three years, she founded Feat, a company that aims to make wellness accessible and fun for organizations.

Chiara is a 2020 Emerging Leader in Food & Ag Award recipient. Recently, she took the time to update us on this work and more.

Emerging Leaders in Food & Ag (EL): Tell us a little about what you’ve been up to in the last 6-12 months? How (if at all) did 2020 and all its unexpected craziness influence your work?

Chiara Cecchini (CC): This past year has definitely been challenging for everybody, and we at Future Food Institute are no exception. However, as it often happens, challenging times are also the best ones to thrive! Indeed it was a very positive year for FFI, as more food & beverages companies are thinking about sustainability and trying to take concrete steps towards it. It’s inspiring to see such an increased amount of players start working into this space, and we’ve been laying the grounds for contributing to this positive trend as much as possible. For example, Dole is now one of our key partners. We’ve been assisting them with a series of innovation sprints and strategic works to help them achieve their ambitious promise of eliminating food waste and fossil-based plastic packaging by 2025, and carbon emissions by 2030. We’ve also kept working with Food for Climate League, of which we are founding partners, focusing on research and innovation projects around climate beneficial food communication. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Overall, it was a very busy and inspiring year.

EL: What lessons have you learned that you are taking into 2021?

CC: The first one definitely has to do with being grounded. We were used to traveling a lot and being in constant motion, but the past year proved to us that there’s something good also in being more rooted and finding new ways to make good use of our time. This actually brought about a lot of new discoveries, as well as the opportunity to channel some old passions into my everyday life. I started doing more things at home, like cooking, growing my own food, and even making my own honey! All of this is something I cherish and I’d like to bring on with me in the future. Lastly, I think this year really proved to everybody that no obstacles can get in your way when you share a common goal and a strong motivation. Passion closes the distance between countries and time zones, and the proof is that cooperation within our team has never been stronger. I’m really excited to see where this is going to lead us!

EL: What’s next for you?

CC: I’d say this new year really brings about a lot of interesting opportunities. Indeed, 2021 has been proclaimed “the year of the food system” by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres. It’s going to be the year of the UN Food System Summit and of Italy hosting the G20 focused on People, Planet and Prosperity. All of this has had a remarkable and well-visible impact on Future Food Institute’s growth, moving at an unprecedented pace as many new inspiring projects give us the chance to follow our mission and help bring about a positive change. On the personal side, I can’t wait to travel back to Europe and finally see my family, friends and colleagues in person after all this time.

EL: What gives you hope for the next year? Or, alternatively, what is your greatest hope for the next year?

CC: As I mentioned, interest and engagement in sustainability by food and beverage companies has never been higher. This is definitely a positive sign of the sector progressively coming together and aligning towards a common goal, and gives us high hopes for the future. I also hope the de-urbanization trend that’s developed over the past year is going to keep being a thing and possibly grow stronger in the future, as it’s got a positive impact on the well-being of both people and the planet.

EL: Is there anything I should have asked you and didn’t that you would like to share?

CC: That’s a nice question! I’m proud to share with you that I embarked on a new writing adventure, starting a new Medium series to give more space to all the exciting discovery activities of Future Food Institute’s Innovation Team. I’ve also been working on a project very close to my heart that focuses on local beekeepers – it just went live, check it up!