What's Burning podcast

038: Johanna Mendelson Forman, PhD, JD - Adjunct Professor, American University’s School of International Service and Founder, Conflict Cuisine

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Johanna Mendelson Forman is a premier expert on gastrodiplomacy, social gastronomy and how food is central to survival and resilience in the world’s most active conflict zones. Her groundbreaking work is derived from her distinguished career as a practitioner and policymaker working with the U.S. government, the United Nations and the World Bank. She is one of the leading voices in the global Social Gastronomy Network, a movement that is helping a new generation of chefs and food activists address a wide range of issues including climate change, food waste, sustainability and global hunger.

Her extensive list of professional credentials includes her ongoing roles as an adjunct professor at American University’s School of International Service and Distinguished Fellow at the Stimson Center, where she heads the Food Security Program. In 2015, her accomplished career in international affairs led her to create Conflict Cuisine®: An Introduction to War and Peace Around the Dinner Table – a curriculum designed to educate about food security, gastrodiplomacy and the issues she about which she is so passionate. The creation of Conflict Cuisine® expanded Johanna’s work to address the relationship between food entrepreneurship, gender and inclusion.

Johanna is a highly regarded expert in the specific regions of Latin America and the Caribbean, with extensive field experience in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Central America Colombia and Brazil. As such, she is frequently featured by national media including the Wall Street Journal, NPR and CNN. She has also authored a number of opinion pieces in prominent publications, most recently The Hill (February 2021).

She holds a JD from Washington College of Law at American University, a PhD in Latin American History from Washington University, St. Louis, and a Master’s of International Affairs from Columbia University. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Queens College.

In 2017, she helped launch the Livelihoods In Food Entrepreneurship Project (LIFE), a consortium of organizations under the Center for Private and International Enterprise. This program, which is supported by the U.S. State Department, aids Syrian refugees and Turks using food entrepreneurship as a tool for social integration. In 2019, she co-edited the LIFE Project cookbook of recipes contributed by refugees, The Cuisines of Life: Stories and Recipes of the New Food Entrepreneurs of Turkey. 

On this episode, Johanna joins host Mitchell Davis and provides us an understanding of gastrodiplomacy, explores social gastronomy and offers perspective on the paradoxical power food has to both create and resolve conflicts.

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