Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 12

VOLUME 11 NUMBER 2 2016 FOOD FIGHT CONFERENCE PLENARY 1 John Lussier: Our keynote speaker for today is Max Finberg*. He’s a senior advisor at the US Department of Agriculture. He has a long history of serving people, especially folks who are hungry. He is currently coordinating two USDA initiatives. One is focusing on cultural transformation in the USDA, and he’s also leading up StrikeForce, which is an initiative focusing on growth and opportunities in rural communities. Max has also been the acting director for the Office of Tribal Relationships in the USDA and senior policy advisor at the White House with the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. And recently he was in Oregon participating in the Justice Conference hosted by World Relief, Antioch Church, and Kilns College; he also was at a conference on food security at Oregon State University in Corvallis. And while he was there, he had a pancake breakfast in the Willamette Valley made from organic wheat, harvested and milled by farmers who served them. And Max brought—I thought this was really fun— home-made maple syrup made by his neighbors in the small town where he grew up in the Catskills Mountains of upstate New York. So, he’s a guy who loves people, loves serving people, loves food, and I’m really glad to have him. So let’s hear it for Max. Max Finberg: Thank you very much. I am very glad to be back in the City of Roses, having been many a time. I grew up in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York where we make maple syrup, and I was just there a week ago for Easter. Because of the long winter, they were still making it, still tapping the sugar maple trees. And Vic and Sue Fairburn had their sugar shack roaring as they were boiling down the sap that God prov ides, evaporating the water to make the maple syrup that you probably don’t eat because what you purchase might be from Canada or Vermont: they make a little more. And that’s what we eat on our pancakes or in our oatmeal or all of that. So, as was mentioned, the connection to food is an early one for me. Dad grew up Jewish. Mom was raised Presbyterian and Unitarian, and they were hippies when I came along. So when I was about one and still in DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11630/1550-4891.11.02.09 * Max Finberg is currently the Director of AmeriCorps VISTA, the domestic Peace Corps. At the time of the conference, he was a senior advisor at USDA. Previously, he served as Acting Director of Tribal Relations at USDA and as senior policy advisor at the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships; mfinberg@cns.gov. 9