Leaders Work Together at the James Beard Foundation’s Chef Action Summit
Advocates gathered from 42 states across the nation to advance policy changeAlexina Cather
February 10, 2023
At the end of January, we hosted the second Chef Action Summit, in partnership with Houston First. Two hundred and forty leading industry professionals from 42 states came together to learn from national policy experts, build community, and strengthen their power and network as advocates. With work on the 2023 Farm Bill soon to begin in Congress, attendees focused on policies and programs that are included in the bill, notably around nutrition security (nearly 80 percent of the Farm Bill is spent on nutrition programs, including funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)) and conservation and sustainability. Attendees also examined and discussed policies that specifically affect restaurants, such as tax credits, wages, and immigration questions.
Keynote speakers Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) highlighted conservation, nutrition, and industry support policies for attendees to focus their advocacy efforts on, while special guests Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner shared inspirational remarks on the power of the chef community. Attendees also received training and motivation from policy experts, advocates, farmers, educators, chefs, and more, including USDA Deputy Under Secretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean, chef-advocate and Wholesome Wave co-founder Michel Nischan, farmer-activist Karen Washington, director of the Food Labor Center at the University of California-Berkeley Saru Jayaraman, and chef-activist and city planner Adrian Lipscombe.
Participants at the Summit were able to select one of three tracks: Nutrition Security and Hunger, Conservation and Sustainability, and Industry Support.
The Nutrition Security and Hunger track focused on opportunities for chefs and restaurants to urge Congress and state and local policymakers to address long-standing nutrition and hunger inequities in our food system. Policy recommendations presented at the end of the Summit included reforming SNAP eligibility and expanding eligibility requirements.
Participants of the Conservation and Sustainability track narrowed in on five themes to advocate for in the upcoming Farm Bill, including Regenerative Farming and Climate Resilience, Composting and Food Waste, Support for BIPOC Farmers, Strengthening Local Food Supply Change, and Increasing Support and Funding for Specialty and Indigenous Crops.
The Industry Support track sought to create policy recommendations that would increase equity and improve resilience and support throughout the industry. Recommendations included Healthcare for Food Service Workers, Federally Certified Mental Health Training, Immigration Reform, Updates to Tax Policy to Reward Owners Who Pay Livable Wages and Provide Benefits to Employees, and a Workers Opportunity Credit Expansion.
The discussions and working sessions from the summit guided a list of policy recommendations that will influence new legislation and create federal policy asks in support of the people behind America’s food culture. These include a list of 10-15 chef-driven policy recommendations for the 2023 Farm Bill that will be shared with legislators later this winter.
Learn more about the Summit, including the full list of speakers and sessions, HERE.
Alexina Cather is a policy advocacy consultant for the James Beard Foundation.