Food Day and Local Food Thought Leaders

Small Bites

Chef José Andrés speaking at a Food Day 2013 event hosted by Living Social in DC. Photo by @thinkfoodgroup.

“Over 4,000 events are part of Food Day this year,” says Michael Jacobson, almost incredulously, of this event that has been growing each year since its 2011 inception. Jacobson, the co-founder and executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), is credited for coining the terms ‘junk food’ and ‘empty calories’ and has led numerous (and successful) efforts for a safer and more healthful food supply – whether requiring clearer nutrition labeling or more comprehensive food safety inspections and traceability.

Under the CSPI umbrella and after a decade of working for Slow Food International in Italy, Lilia Smelkova was tapped as the (October 24th) Food Day campaign manager. In only its third year, her efforts have helped create a growing nationwide awareness and a celebration of healthful, affordable and sustainably produced food, as well as building a grassroots campaign for better food policies.

There have been numerous events related to Food Day taking place all around the District. On George Washington University’s (GWU) campus they’ve hosted a week’s worth of events and at GWU, you’ll find a number of complimentary initiatives. Diane Knapp, a former Registered Dietician, and wife of GW’s president David Knapp, has been instrumental in supporting a broad range of sustainability efforts, whether chairing the Urban Food Task Force, engaging the extended campus community, or collaborative work with chef José Andrés.

Living Social hosted one of the final events of Food Day, where the Food Network’s Ellie Krieger moderated a panel that included Roger Johnson (president of the National Farmers Union), CSPI’s Jacobson and GWU professor Lance Price from the department of Environmental and Occupational Health. While a major focus was the growing concern with drug resistant bacteria due to the increasing use of antibiotics in animals (especially in concentrated animal feeding operations or huge animal feed lots known as CAFOs), the participants touched on country of origin labeling (for traceability of product) and a consumer’s right to know. Later, award-winning author and food historian, Amy Riolo moderated a group of local chefs representing international cuisine: Sudhir Seth (Spice Xing), Nongkran Daks (Thai Basil), Zeynel Uzun (Kazan Restaurant), and Luigi Diotaiuti (Al Tiramisu), where a universal thread in global cooking is locally grown ingredients.

Chef José Andrés wrapped up the evening and clearly re-stated Jean Brillat-Savarin, “The destiny of nations depends on how they nourish themselves.” While the Spanish-born, award-winning chef is known for his many restaurants, his Think Food Group organization combines not only his restaurants, hotels, products, and media, his educational initiatives partner with universities like GWU and Harvard, and his philanthropic humanitarian organization, World Central Kitchen, looks for smart solutions to hunger and poverty is far-reaching in scope and mission.

Living Social’s Sara Parker facilitated the Food Day 2013 events at the 918 F Street location. Parker says, “The focus for Food Day 2013 is food education, which is a big component of the year-round cooking classes we host at LivingSocial’s 918 F Street. We regularly work with local chefs like José Andrés and Amy Riolo who are committed to educating the DC community about what we put into our bodies and the food policies that impact our daily lives. LivingSocial’s 918 F Street was the perfect place to bring Food Day’s Eating Real mission to life and we were thrilled to welcome so many great food leaders to our space so that we can continue the Food Day dialogue.”

You can maintain a Food Day focus year-round at Living Social’s impressive kitchen facility; you’ll find tutorials and events – (see LivingSocial’s 918 F Street roster) including seasonal cooking, how to break down a whole bird, hands-on pickling, gluten-free cooking, raw juicing – or gatherings with pumpkin-inspired tastings or lively discussions where you can hear about the history of beer.

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