Highlights from James Beard Foundation’s Food Conference

Synopsis of presentations from “Sustainability on the Table: How Money and Media Influence the Way America Eats”
Oct 26, 2011 5:00 PM ET

(3BL Media / theCSRfeed) New York, NY - October 26, 2011 - The James Beard Foundation (JBF) hosted the second annual James Beard Foundation Food Conference ­ – “Sustainability on the Table: How Money and Media Influence the Way America Eats” – at the Hearst Tower in New York City on October 12 and 13. Co-hosted by Good Housekeeping, the invitation-only conference brought together a group of more than 125 diverse thought leaders and stakeholders in the food system for a national dialogue on sustainability and how money and media influence what and how we eat.

Following are highlights of presentations and key quotes from the two-day Food Conference:   Joseph McIntyre, Facilitator; President, Ag Innovations Network welcomed conference attendees and offered opening remarks: “We need to have conversations about food and the future of food with people who don’t necessarily agree—we need to find places of commonality via these conversations.”   Fabio Parasecoli, author of Bite Me!: Food & Pop Culture; Associate Professor of Food Studies, The New School, presented Food, Pop Culture, and the Role of Media in the American Diet:  “So, are we what we eat or are we what we think we eat? Media influences us, not only in our food choices, but also the way we think of ourselves as consumers, and that’s very important because when we embrace some sort of identity we want to embrace that lifestyle—we want to consume accordingly.”   “Recently media are recognizing that men are very important targets when it comes to food—and not only food, but nutrition elements… In a way, the media are moving, not only to normalizing ideas about women, but also about men and more and more men are having problems with their own body image… [Media] know that genre [the “Jackass” genre where ads use a certain type of humor] is particularly popular with a specific audience of young males… They [media] are negotiating, through food, what young males think of themselves.”   Marion Nestle, author of JBF Award–winning Food Politics and Safe Food; Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies & Public Health, New York University, moderated the panel, Expert Perspectives on Media and Food: “You can’t understand anything about the food system unless you understand the way our agricultural system works.”   “The food movement is big, and you can tell that it’s big because the media has picked it up… The food movement is very, very different from classic social movements in that it is extremely diverse and that it’s focused on different things, but the overarching idea is to have a food system that is healthier for people and the planet.”   Ken Cook, President, Environmental Working Group, on the panel, How Money, Incentives, and Industry Concentration Influence Our Food System: “Transparency is what’s important—we need to follow the money and hold people accountable.”   Highlights from the conference also include results of the joint survey from the James Beard Foundation and conference co-host, Good Housekeeping: Results of the survey can be found here: Survey Says! Public Attitudes Toward Money, Media, and Food.   A panel of culinary experts and chefs came together for Cooking Under Pressure: A Chef’s Perspective on Sustainability, and included remarks from:    Marcus Samuelsson, JBF Award-winning chef, Red Rooster: “What’s happening in Brooklyn is inspirational—Brooklyn changed, conceptually, the footprint of dining.”   “We need to look at urban American opportunities. There are emerging markets in the cities of America—that’s the next level of diversity.”    José Andrés, JBF Award–winning chef, Think Food Group: “Rich farmers are feeding the poor and poor farmers are feeding the rich.”   Sam Kass, Senior White House Policy Advisor and White House Chef, opened day two of the Food Conference and discussed The Ingredients of Change: “One in three kids in America are overweight or obese; the CDC [Center for Disease Control] now predicts that one in three kids born today will have diabetes in their lifetimes…Where it has hit me [the hardest] is sitting across from retired four-star generals who have said to us that obesity may be our nation’s greatest national security threat. Twenty-seven percent of 18-24 year olds cannot serve in our military—it’s the number one disqualification for military service…So, the implications are really heavy.”   “The First Lady often says that ‘these solutions cannot come from Washington alone.’ There’s not one bill, there’s not one presidential decree that is going to overcome these set of challenges—instead it is going to take the work of everybody like you in this room—parents, and business leaders and teachers. The First Lady has made it clear that we all have a role to play…”   A panel of food industry experts came together on the panel, DIY: Cooking Up A Better Food System:   Wendy Gellman, Senior Policy Advisory, Office of Senator Kirsten E. Gillebrand discussed the Senator’s robust initiatives to help develop new programs and policies: “Senator Gillebrand is New York’s first member of the agricultural committee in over 40 years…We have over 35,000 farms that stretch across 7.1 million acres. The Senator is working to improve and affect change in agriculture and our food system and our country with legislative initiatives.”   Michel Nischan, Co-Founder, Wholesome Wave; Chef, The Dressing Room: “There is a demand in these underserved communities which is good news… because these communities are very aware, thanks to the internet, that they should be feeding their families better…You introduce affordability and makes education a lot easier because people know what they should be doing for their family.”    “The money is there, the decision makers are in this room… I really encourage us to start pulling the trigger—start spending the money and investing it in our communities so that everybody can have a business, everybody can have a job, everybody can have a chance, and everybody can have the opportunity to put the same tomato on the table.”   Narrative Interludes at the two-day conference, included: Barry Estabrook, JBF Award–winning author of Tomatoland, presented a narrative interlude, Tomato, Tomahto, in which he spoke about the tomato as being emblematic of all the problems in the food industry today. Other presenters included Jonathan Halperin, President, Designing Sustainability; Haile Johnston, Co-Founder, Common Market Philadelphia; Paul Greenberg, JBF Award–winning author of Four Fish.   Additional remarks from the final day of the conference and the Inaugural Leadership Awards included:   Mitchell Davis, Vice President, The James Beard Foundation:  “It’s our mission to give back the tools chefs and individuals need to move forward [to make positive change happen in the food system]. We’re all here because we share values… that’s what makes us humans.”   Susan Ungaro, President, The James Beard Foundation, at the Inaugural Leadership Awards: “The global community is no doubt watching to see how we address the food issues in this country, and it’s encouraging to know that there are so many forward-thinking leaders committed to putting the building blocks in place for a better food world. This mission requires each and every one of us to roll up our sleeves and pitch in.”   Woody Campbell, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, The James Beard Foundation:  “When I first came on this board over six years ago, this moment was a dream of mine—an opportunity to tackle some of the major issues that our country and society face in terms of food, food quality, nutrition, sustainability and so on.”   Other highlights of the Food Conference included: a special director’s screening of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, an appetizing documentary by David Gelb about family, tradition, and the value of hard work; “Sustainability in the City: A Day of Discovery Tours In and Around NYC”; a tour of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute; and the First Annual James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards Ceremony & Dinner, where ten visionaries were honored for their tireless work creating a more healthful, sustainable, and safe food world.   For more information about the second annual James Beard Foundation Food Conference, please visit www.jbffoodconference.org. A selection of panels, presentations and conference videos, can be viewed at http://www.jbffoodconference.org/conference/2011-conference-footage/.   Founding support for the JBF Food Conference, portions of which were streamed live, was provided by Edens & Avant, GRACE Communications Foundation, and Sodexo. The conference was also made possible with leading support from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. Additional support was provided by AGree, American Humane Association, and Karp Resources.   About the James Beard Foundation Founded in 1986, the James Beard Foundation is dedicated to celebrating, nurturing, and preserving America's diverse culinary heritage and future. A cookbook author and teacher with an encyclopedic knowledge about food, James Beard, who died in 1985, was a champion of American cuisine. He helped educate and mentor generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts. Today, the Beard Foundation continues in the same spirit by administering a number of diverse programs that include educational initiatives, food industry awards, scholarships to culinary schools, and publications, and by maintaining the historic James Beard House in New York City’s Greenwich Village as a “performance space” for visiting chefs. For more information, please visit www.jamesbeard.org. Find insights on food at the James Beard Foundation’s blog Delights & Prejudices. Join the James Beard Foundation on Facebook. Follow the James Beard Foundation on Twitter.   CONTACT: Diane Stefani/Leah Goodman 212.255.8455 diane@rosengrouppr.com/leah@rosengrouppr.com   JBF18148