JBF Impact News: Year-End Gratitude and Hopes for 2018Katherine Miller
December 20, 2017
Our senior director of food policy advocacy Katherine Miller finishes this year with a look back at the people and organizations that have moved us forward in the fight for good food in 2017, and highlights the shining lights of 2018 that we should look to even in our current tumultuous times.
It is officially time to close out 2017. It has been a year with little positive progress on food policy reform, back-to-back-to-back natural disasters, and the uncovering of glaring inequities and rampant sexual harassment in every industry. Despite all the chaos, there are some things in our food world truly worth celebrating, and even a few more to look forward to in 2018.
Here are some of the advancements and achievements in 2017 that have me feeling hopeful:
- Remembering that good food policy champions exist. When Washington, D.C., feels dysfunctional, it’s important to keep an eye on the efforts of lawmakers such as Senator Debbie Stabenow and Representatives Chellie Pingree, Jim McGovern, and Earl Blumenauer. They are working with experts and advocates, including farmers and chefs, to push for policies that protect and push new thinking about an equitable food system. Leaders can also be found in every state. Governors such as John Hickenlooper (Colorado) and Mayors Megan Barry (Nashville) and Muriel Bowser (Washington, D.C.) are leading the way on efforts to reduce food waste and expand successful feeding programs in local communities. The monumental task of negotiating the Farm Bill is policy priority number one in 2018, and with champions such as these, progress feels possible.
- Chefs as heroes. JBF Award winner José Andrés marshaled millions of dollars and thousands of people to respond to the immediate need to feed people in Houston, Puerto Rico, and Southern California. He wasn’t alone. JBF Award winner Tom Colicchio and Victor Albisu were among the leading chefs who joined the World Central Kitchen response teams. Chefs Tiffany Derry and Duskie Estes were just a few of the chefs who led similar efforts in their own communities. To feed people in a time of crisis is both a gift and a necessity.
- Powerful women leaders of the movement. Whether it was watching Devita Davison’s TED talk on urban agriculture or cheering when chefs Vivian Howard and JBF Award winner Ashley Christensen were recognized as the Tar Heels of the Year, 2017 was all about women being recognized for their leadership. This past year, JBF launched its first program geared towards women entrepreneurs. And all around the country, chefs stood up to start big conversations in creative ways, such as Jennifer Booker’s new dinner series tackling race and gender, or Amy Brandwein’s frank conversation with POLITICO on the topic of women’s leadership in the kitchen. From farmers to chefs to culinary professionals to experts, we are only beginning to see the potential of women to lead this community.
- Honest talk about chronic problems in the industry. Many view—rightly, I think—the culinary industry as open, inclusive, and progressive. Yet, like every industry, racism, alcoholism, drug abuse, and sexual harassment are chronic problems that mar people’s professional and personal experiences. High-profile chefs weren’t shy about how they dealt with these problems, personally or within their businesses. Chefs Sean Brock and Ari Taymor talked openly about alcoholism and mental health issues, and how these issues impacted their businesses. Chef Amanda Cohen and restaurant employees such as Lindsey Reynolds publicly wrote about sexual harassment and gender bias, and across the culinary community, people are discussing ways to make lasting changes to the industry to promote equality. While there is still a lot of work to do, these important discussions—along with all of the work being done to highlight new and diverse voices—will help the industry mature and grow.
These efforts—the honest talk, an increased focus on women’s leadership, tackling disasters, and debate over our food system—will continue into the New Year. So too, will work on each of these challenges here at the Beard Foundation as we look towards an exciting docket of programs for 2018, including:
- Continuing our Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change. We’re hosting three national advocacy trainings focused on the Farm Bill next year. These new advocates will join the 180 alumni of this program to protect the progress we’ve made on good food policies and push for more innovation.
- Launching our food waste program. The JBF Impact programs team is focused on creating a dynamic program to train the next generation of culinary professionals on ways to reduce food waste. This program will be up and running in June!
- Expanding our work on sustainable seafood and meat. With more than 400 chefs and restaurants participating in our Smart Catch program, and the success of our Blended Burger Project partnership, our team is looking for creative ways to grow these initiatives. Look for more information throughout the year on how to find foods that are better for you and the planet.
To track all this work, make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter at @JBFChefAction and @beardfoundation, and using the hashtags #chefslead and #jbfimpact. All the work we’ve seen, and initiatives we’ve created, are based on the power of raised voices, so make it a new year’s resolution to listen and speak up in 2018.
Have a delicious and happy holiday season!
Katherine Miller is JBF’s senior director of food policy advocacy. Find her on Twitter.