The James Beard Foundation continues its decade-long work in the sustainability space by focusing on the landscape in 2021 and beyond, approaching sustainability through environmental, economic, and social lenses. We are taking into consideration the ever-greater impact of climate change on living conditions and food production worldwide, supply chain strains that have been further stressed by a global pandemic, and the need for the culinary industry to create a more equitable, accessible, transparent, and a sustainable work culture.
The current James Beard Foundation sustainability initiatives include the Smart Catch program, which provides training and support to chefs and businesses to serve seafood fished or farmed in environmentally responsible ways. By becoming a Smart Catch Leader and earning the official seal, chefs provide consumers a simple way to identify and support their restaurants and have a more sustainable impact on the environment.
Food waste is also an important area of sustainability focus for the Foundation. Recent efforts have included the publication of Waste Not, a comprehensive book on full-use cooking—how to use all the food you buy and avoid food waste—featuring innovative recipes and tips from chefs across the country. Creating a Full-Use Kitchen is an online course developed by the James Beard Foundation—created with founding support from The Rockefeller Foundation, served up by Morton's Salt®, with food waste tracking partner LeanPath—and designed to introduce food waste reduction methods into the culinary school classroom. This course is intended to complement an existing curriculum by providing information on the history of food waste and creative approaches for combatting it.
Over the next year, through focus groups and input from a broad group of industry stakeholders, the James Beard Foundation will continue to refine how we define sustainability and how we integrate it organically throughout all of our activities, from public events and educational programs to the Awards.
Our current working definition of sustainability is as follows:
Sustainability at its simplest is about meeting the “needs” of the present without the depletion of resources over time. However, defining sustainability must go beyond the environmental/natural resource environmental/natural resource context to include social and economic resources as well as to consider equitable access for the various actors within the food system. Below are more specific definitions of some of the key pillars of sustainability that will need to evolve as the world changes and new information becomes available, with the goal to provide guidance to those in the culinary industry, hospitality, media and broader food system, to begin making improvements.
Environmental: The use of natural resources that ensures their perpetual use over time without long-term decline as well as, at a minimum, the neutral impact and, at best, the positive impact on ecosystems through regenerative practices that safeguard biodiversity and build resiliency into natural systems.
Social: The treatment of all workers and members of the supply chain that ensures fair, equitable, inclusive, and safe working conditions that keep individuals and communities healthy, secure, and protected from discrimination.
Economic: The use of business models that ensure secure, sustainable livelihoods of all workers and members of the supply chain while also ensuring the financial health, viability, and longevity of the business itself.
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