Food Day Shines Spotlight on Local Solutions to Problems with Food System
Food Access and Food Insecurity Among Many Topics at 4,700 Events
Officials and community leaders in Los Angeles observed Food Day by gathering at City Hall to celebrate progress made by institutions participating in the city's Good Food Purchasing Program, and the city's Food Policy Council released its Los Angeles Food System Snapshot. The event will mark the one year anniversary of a program the city launched last year, which harnesses the purchasing power of major institutions to encourage greater production of, and access to, sustainable produced food. One city council member used the day to promote urban agriculture by allowing planting of edible plants in residential parkways.
"We have seen that these parkway gardens can supplement food budgets for struggling families, beautify neighborhoods, and create a sense of community," said Los Angeles city council president Herb Wesson. "We are also looking at surplus properties owned by the City for their potential use as community gardens, especially for communities with limited green space and healthy food options."
The Los Angeles event is just one of 4,700 events that are expected to occur today on—or immediately before and just after—the third annual Food Day.
In Baton Rouge, LA, the city's Food Access Policy Commission presented its latest findings to the Metro Council at City Hall, and spotlighted innovative work being done in Baton Rouge to increase access to healthy food in a community hit hard by obesity and diabetes. In Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel has issued a Food Day proclamation, a Collective Event will bring together Chicago public school students, farmers market vendors, residents, and city employees at Daley Plaza for presentations and activities on seed swapping, farming, food insecurity, and other topics. And at least 12 governors and 21 other mayors have signed proclamations declaring October 24 as Food Day.
The global, avant-garde chefs organization Cook It Raw is celebrating Food Day with its first public event, "Cook It Raw: BBQ Perspective," on Bowens Island, SC. The sold out October 26 event will put special emphasis on Lowcountry produce.
"Cook it Raw is excited to use Food Day to celebrate whole foods, locally sourced, and creatively prepared," said Alessandro Porcelli, founder and director of Cook It Raw. "We want to honor the culinary traditions of the American South—with an eye toward addressing communities needs to promote healthier eating."
"Food Day absolutely sums up the process of sustainable forward thinking," said chef Ben Vaughn, host of the Food Network’s "Health Inspectors" and master of ceremonies at the largest Food Day event, an October 26 festival in Savannah, GA's Daffin Park. "It is a blueprint for the real meaning of sustainability and standard of how to raise a healthy family. It's nourishment for your food soul to get excited … about October 24, but continuing on the 25th and throughout the year."
In Massachusetts, more than 600 events have been organized by the state’s agriculture department, backed by the leadership of Governor Deval Patrick.
"We must ensure that our communities receive the best that our farms can produce today and preserve our local agriculture for future generations," said Greg Watson, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.
"Food Day is especially timely this year as we prepare to finalize the farm bill in Congress," Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) said. "In the richest nation on earth, access to high quality, nutritious food for every American is a necessary and achievable goal."
Online, Food Day is organizing a Thunderclap—a crowdspeaking event expected to bring the Food Day message to more than 500,000 people on Twitter. Those celebrating Food Day by cooking a healthy meal for family or friends can upload photos of their events on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the tag #LetsGetCooking to be entered into a contest. Winners receive a Jamie Oliver cookbook. (The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation (USA) has partnered with Food Day to promote food education in schools.) People can also watch a number of webcasts, including a Food Dialogues debate in Boston featuring Food Day founder Michael F. Jacobson, and a "Food Policy 101" webinar organized by Policy Link and Philadelphia's The Food Trust.
"I believe food is our most important source of energy," said chef José Andrés, who is participating at a Food Day event this evening at LivingSocial's Washington, DC office. "It is the one thing we need aside from breathing to survive, and it touches every aspect of our lives. That’s why I think Food Day is so important to create this conversation to celebrate and find ways to improve the food system."
Most, but not all, Food Day events are logged on an interactive map at Food Day.org. While the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest provides national coordination for Food Day, the event is guided by a long list of national and local partner organizations and a diverse advisory board comprised of members of Congress, physicians, and experts on farm worker justice, animal welfare, nutrition, food security, and other issues.
Food Day, like CSPI, accepts no corporate donations, but does welcome corporations to use the day to promote healthy food or announce new initiatives. For instance, Sabra will be handing out free samples of its hummus at an event in Union Square in Manhattan. Institutional food service provider Bon Appétit Management Company will use the day to promote a sodium-reduction initiative.
"We hope that one of the things that comes out of Food Day is a food movement that is stronger, more united, and better equipped to press for changes that make it easier to eat healthier year round," said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI and founder of Food Day. "Today hundreds of thousands of Americans will add their voices to a growing campaign for food that is produced with care for consumers, the environment, and the men and women who grow, harvest, and serve it."
Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).