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My Food Job Rocks!

May 15, 2017

I am so excited to have Sapna Thottahil join me today.

Sapna has an amazing background. From her early days in food waste to her fullbright scholarship Indian Organic Farming, Sapna is very passionate on the current issues in food that are just starting to get our attention.

With a  good heart, she now has a job as a Supply Chain Specialist at School Food Focus where she manages the supply chain for all ingredients that goes to feed schools in California.

So not only do we discuss one of the most important (yet not well talked about) careers in the food industry, but we also get into a lot of other really cool things such as whether to buy local, or fair trade, the cool things happening in the school food space, and an excellent tip on how to make your own vanilla extract.

hat’s the end of the show everyone, if you like what you heard, like us on facebook or set a review on itunes. It helps wonders. If you have any questions or suggestions on how to improve the podcast, don’t be afraid to email me at


This episode is sponsored by FoodGrads, an interactive platform for the Food & Beverage Industry, which focuses on closing the gap between students and employers with a broader mission to attract and retain people to a meaningful career in food. From Food Scientists to Farmers, Chefs to Plant Managers, QA Technicians to Dieticians, or Marketing and Sales, no matter what your passion--there's something for everyone in Food—and they will help you find it.

Join FoodGrads for support, mentorship and guidance to start your career. Just go to

About Sapna

This excerpt was copied from her website

Sapna E. Thottathil, PhD is a first generation Indian American and the author of India’s Organic Farming Revolution: What it Means for Our Global Food System. She is passionate about finding solutions to global health and environmental problems and has over 10 years of experience in international development, environmental resource management, and food and agriculture.

Sapna is currently a Supply Chain Specialist at School Food Focus, where she develops opportunities with food companies interested in supplying better K-12 public school food.

She has worked on environmental policy and climate change for multiple organizations, including the Environmental Protection Agency and Health Care Without Harm, and has contributed to several articles on sustainable meat procurement, featured in Civil Eats and the American Journal of Public Health.

She earned her BA from the University of Chicago, where she was awarded the Udall Scholarship for environmental leadership, before going on to receive an MSc from Oxford University and a PhD in Geography from the University of California at Berkeley, where she was the recipient of a Fulbright fellowship. She currently sits on the Board of Pesticide Action Network, serves as a Council Member for Oakland Food Policy Council, is on the National Advisory Council for the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, and is a Health Equity Expert with the Center for Global Policy Solutions. 

In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, gardening, hiking, identifying wildflowers and birds, and relearning how to play the piano. She is also working on another book.

Sapna lives in Oakland, California with her husband and son.

Key Takeaways

  • What Supply Chain does
  • Our discussion on buying local versus buying fair trade
  • Why cafeterias are starting to cook raw chicken
  • Sapna’s top 3 spices

Question Summary

What is your definition of Supply Chain?: Logistics between production and consumption
Do you buy fair trade or local?: Farmers all around need our support
Steps to get to where you are today: Office of Solid Waste to Oxford University in England, UC Berkeley PhD, Fullbright Scholarship to India, published a book, School food procurement
What Claims do you look for on School Food Focus: Healthy ingredients, ingredient guide is posted on school food focus
What should young people be doing for their job?: Never stop learning
What unusual class did you take to help you at your job?: Science and Environmental Issues
My Food Job Rocks: I work for a mission focused organization with people who want to change the world
Food Trends and Technology: Cafeterias are buying raw chicken and cooking it in house. Transparency in food
Challenges in the Food Industry: Food Waste and ironically people are hungry. Supply Chain is full of inefficiencies
Who is doing a good job fixing this?: Plant based food companies
How do you get on Non-Profit Boards?: It’s like applying for a job. Networking and know the right people
Who Inspired You to get into food?: Consumers and my mother
Favorite Kitchen Item: Spices. Spice Cabinet
Top 3 Spices: Coriander, basil, vanilla
Vanilla extract tip: Cheap vodka, great vanilla beans
Any advice for anyone going into the food industry: Read on the sector, Check out these really cool podcasts (MFJR), Network,
What’s next?: Sapna is making a new book
Sapna kerala at

Other Links

School Food Focus
Raw Materials
Pesticide Action Network
Food Miles
Fair Trade
Cal Poly Chocolates
Value-added goods
Kerala India
Southern Indian Cuisine
Civil Eats