Stuff that matters

Grist 50

Dean Mosiman

Meet the fixer: This civil servant cooks up smart food policy.

It’s mind-bogglingly difficult to budge the ginormous, two-headed problem of hunger and obesity. That’s why George Reistad has unleashed dozens of different food-related projects as food czar for the city of Madison, Wisconsin.

Reistad issues both municipal and foundation grants to organizations with smart ideas, like the school that wanted to build a salad bar or the medical clinic that has started giving low-income patients vouchers for the food co-op across the street. He’s also working with the Latino Chamber of Commerce and a small grocery store to set up a delivery program for people paying for food with government benefits — residents who often have a hard time getting across town to go shopping.

Reistad has been on the job for less than a year, and he’s excited about what’s to come. “It’s just great to see the work taking root in the community around me,” he says. His efforts could provide a model for breaking down our giant food problems, piece by piece.

Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.