Stories / Interviews

How This Couple Deepens Their Community Impact as JBF Patrons and Beyond

Janae Butler

December 28, 2023


Sean March and Carolina March

The James Beard Foundation (JBF) Patrons are a community of supporters that believe in our mission, including both food lovers and the people behind the plate. In this series, we’re highlighting Patron Program members who are working to improve our food system and embody our Good Food for Good™ mission.

Meet Carolina March and Sean March, our December member spotlights. The Marches have been JBF Patrons and members of the Young Professionals Committee (YPC) since June. We spoke with Carolina and Sean about what drives their dedication to organizations whose missions walk-the-walk and how a series of serendipitous events led them to become JBF Patrons.


JBF: What drew you both to become Patrons and supporters of JBF?

Carolina March: I knew about JBF back when I was in college. I was really into the awards and would stay on top of the winners and dream about going. When we moved from Dallas to New York City, we were trying to find an organization to connect with because we'd always been very involved in our Dallas community. After the shutdown, we got involved with Hudson River Park Friends, and we attended the first collaborative event JBF did with them. I thought it was a special occasion that JBF was in NYC; we had no clue they were based there. We met Persis (JBF’s director of development) at the event and immediately gravitated to her and the speech she gave about JBF’s collaborative efforts in food education, sustainability, and access.

JBF: Was there a particular JBF event that solidified your interest?

Sean March: The Sean Sherman dinner at Platform in Pier 57 was pretty damn cool. Carolina already had his cookbook, so she knew about his mission. I expected to hear from the chef that night, but what I didn't expect was to hear from his team and learn the behind the scenes of the restaurant from a business standpoint. It showed how the service that JBF provides really helps a lot of people, beyond just the chefs that get awards. And seeing the mutually beneficial relationship between chef Sean’s team and JBF gave us a more holistic view of how this whole ecosystem works.

Carolina: That dinner was [also] pivotal for me because we’d just learned about JBF’s efforts but could already see they were practicing what they preached. Being from Puerto Rico and 12% Native American from the Taíno tribe, I got to speak to Sean Sherman, learn about his work with the native tribes, and connect over the tribes of Puerto Rico. It was incredible to hear how he's preserving that culture while working towards food sustainability and accessibility, just as JBF is. I felt like we heard about it, we read about it, and then we saw JBF really come through. That was pretty emotional.  

Sean: And the Beaver tacos were incredible! Something I wouldn’t have thought I’d have access to or even the idea to try.

JBF: You then decided to become members of our Young Professional Committee. What was it about taking on the extra commitment that excited you?

Sean: Giving and fundraising are needed, but when we find the organization where our skills and their needs align, then I think it's our responsibility to be there to provide those. We like to be boots on the ground, talking to the employees of the organization and the people that it's supposed to benefit. Being able to see the nitty-gritty helps us understand if it’s an organization that we want to get involved in. It didn't take that long for us to figure that out with JBF.

JBF: Describe your connection to food. What role has it played in each of your lives?

Carolina: I unfortunately grew up with very little, and food was a big deal in our house. I also had a medical condition that really impacted my ability to consume certain foods. So, by the time I got to college, I had to completely adjust what I was consuming, which is when I started to learn about local and organic farming. I would also watch food shows and read about JBF, learning to appreciate the art of food. I realized [that] often, we eat so quickly [that] we don’t stop to give grace or think about where [our food] came from. These experiences made me so grateful and formed my connection to food.  

Sean: It doesn’t really matter what cultural background you come from; I’ve never found one where food wasn’t at the center of it. I grew up in the South with a specific kind of food that’s very difficult to get elsewhere, and [that] makes you realize how unique a food can be. I’ve also become more appreciative of food since I've been with Carolina. She takes hosting to a different level, so I’ve seen that it’s not just going out to cool restaurants with friends that brings people together. It's bringing people into your home to have those experiences.

JBF: What advice would you give to other young people looking for guidance in giving back and finding community?   

Carolina: I’m a huge advocate for mental health and research shows that you benefit more by giving than receiving. I want to practice giving back and I know that, in return, I'm going to feel better mentally. My biggest advice is to go volunteer at any given nonprofit because the benefit they are going to receive out of that work will be exponential. By doing that, your brain receives a reward, and you’ll naturally want to get more involved.

Sean: From what I've seen, the people who join specifically to expand their network don't tend to stay. When you join an organization that you are passionate about and connect with their mission, you're going to stick around and get far more out of it. From there, you can take the next step to determine what set of skills you have that can be used to benefit the organization further.  

Learn more and join our Patron Program.


Janae Butler is manager of development operations at the James Beard Foundation.