James Beard Foundation Food Conference and Panel

This year the James Beard Foundation took a whole new approach to their task of bringing attention to the food world and its chefs. Aware that they hold a "unique role in celebrating and nurturing America's culinary heritage and future," the James Beard Foundation held its first JBF Food Conference and JBF Leadership Awards. The Food Conference and Leadership Awards are aimed at directing the spotlight towards individuals, organizations, and corporations working to improve our food system.

This year's conference theme was "Sustainability on the Table: How Money and Media Influence the Way America Eats." The JBF featured many speakers and presentations of food issues including everything from converting desert lands into green and sustainable farming landscapes to actual statistics of how and what American families are eating today. I was asked by the Foundation to participate in a panel yesterday for the conference that included three other chefs; Jose Andres, Michael Anthony, and Anne Quatrano; to speak about our perspectives on sustainability. Myself and the other chefs spoke about the rising costs of food, environmental issues, buying locally, and helping the community.

I was happy to share with the panel and the audience about the importance of buying locally and supporting your local farmers market, like I do with the Harlem Farmers Market. I believe this local support will slowly help to build a stronger sense of community and eventually help rebuild our local economies. Also, instead of looking at other countries as the next big emerging markets, we should instead look to our inner cities as possible markets to do business in. By doing so, we not only help our own city, but also give employment to those in the area that need it. To  me, its more of a matter of looking and fixing inward instead of out somewhere else in the world.

Some other great issues that my fellow chefs brought up included getting people in America exciting about cooking as Anne mentioned; helping other already-established organizations that help feed people better, like Wellness in the Schools, as brought up by Michael; and finally learning more and educating ourselves with facts to back up our points of view on sustainability, as mentioned by Jose.

I congratulate the James Beard Foundation for taking on this new role of awareness and education, and I also want to thank them for allowing me to participate in yesterday's panel during the JBF Food Conference. Check out a few photos below of yesterday's panel.

What are some other ways we can educate others about sustainability?

Photos: Cyndi Amaya

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