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This past weekend saw San Francisco host the inaugural Slow Food Nation, a four-day celebration of producers, farmers and food, and the tenets of Slow Food International, that all food should be good, clean and fair. Over 60,000 people attended, including an estimated 50,000 at the Civic Center Plaza. In addition to the open-air food festival, supported by Civic Center’s outdoor Marketplace and Slow On The Go Food Stalls, and the Victory Garden planted on the grounds of City Hall, the weekend also featured a thought-provoking series of panels called Food for Thought. Over 14,000 people attended these political discussions, where the issues addressed included global climate change, rising energy costs, healthcare, working conditions for farmworkers, as well as the many challenges facing the effort to re-localize the food distribution system. As a new addition to the Bon Appetit team, […]

“USDA Organic” and “Marine Stewardship Council-certified” are the two most prominent “eco-labels” that ensure a measure of environmental responsibility consumers can count on for agricultural and wild seafood products, respectively. Developed by third parties with significant input from thoughtful advisors, these labels provide a certain hedge against spurious claims of environmental responsibility that cuts through the growing clutter of ‘green marketing.’ But how valuable are eco-labels and are they doing more harm than good? In the current issue of Conservation Biology, Jennifer Jacquet and Daniel Pauly argue that market-based initiatives, though well-intentioned, “unduly discriminate against small scale fishers for their lack of resources to provide data for certification.” The Marine Stewardship Council’s seal of approval for wild-capture fisheries, which is emerging as the ‘gold standard’ certification, draws particular attention. “The MSC bias against small-scale fisheries is neither intentional nor unacknowledged, […]

A study published in July by researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine showed that tests on farm-raised tilapia showed "very low levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and, perhaps worse, very high levels of omega-6 fatty acid." The article, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, caught national attention due to the claim that "the inflammatory potential of hamburger and pork bacon is lower than the average serving of farmed tilapia." Really? Farm-raised tilapia are generally identified as ‘environmentally responsible’ because they are fed a "vegetarian diet" (i.e., not fed other fish which could result in more ocean resources used than produced). "Vegetarian-fed" typically means it was fed corn. In other words, the same diet as cattle and swine. No wonder the dietetic concern. But according to Tim Fitzgerald, a scientist with Environmental Defense Fund who […]

In my July 17th post Georgia Goes Green I noted that sustainability isn’t just a "west coast thing" and pointed to the great student-run farm at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Seems I’m not the only one who has noticed that St. Olaf College is a pretty special place. Brian Voerding recently posted When St. Olaf students say ‘Bon appetit!’ they really mean it to St. Olaf College has become a regular in the Princeton Review’s top ten for Best Food and Brian attributes the ranking in part to Bon Appetit Management Company’s relationships with local growers on and off-campus. Bon Appetit at St. Olaf’s efforts also led off the Minneapolis Star Tribune article Good food? It’s academic: Every week about 700 pounds of Minnesota’s finest beef is delivered to the cafeteria at St. Olaf College in Northfield. […]

Last Wednesday I was a panelist in a discussion at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club with Kevin Lunny, owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Company, and Jessica Prentice, who coined the term ‘locavore’ and operates the Three Stone Hearth Kitchen. Our event was part of a series leading up to Slow Food Nation, the Labor Day weekend foodie extravaganza. Unlike our famous predecessors the week before, Alice Waters and Eric Schlosser, icons of the slow food movement, the three of us primarily represent private sector models in action that challenge the dominant mode of consuming fast, cheap and environmentally-negligent food simply as ‘fuel.’ None of the businesses we represent, however, offers lunch for 99 cents. Inevitably the question arises amidst these discussions: isn’t ‘sustainable’ food more expensive than what people can afford? The question is generally well-intended (as it was here), but […]

As much as the Eat Local Challenge (our annual celebration challenging our chefs to make one meal completely of local ingredients) has become ingrained in our culture, it was not an original idea when we began the event in 2005. We were inspired by a group of women in San Francisco who called themselves the Locavores. These women didn’t invent the idea of eating locally but they created a culture around it. In fact, Locavore was selected as the 2007 Word of the Year in the New Oxford American Dictionary. The Locavores have inspired people all over the country to take their Eat Local Challenge and blog about it. I would even hazard a guess that their idea was the impetus for Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Now the New York State Department of Agriculture has gotten into the act. […]

Planted in the middle of San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza (right in front of the City Hall building), Slow Food Nation’s Victory Garden is quite an impressive site. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect to be underwhelmed. I had been following the progress of this project on Slow Food Nation’s blog and Bon Appetit has been a great supporter of the organization. In fact, the team at University of San Francisco prepared a local, delicious (memorable) lunch for the volunteers and attendees at the Victory Garden "launch" day on July 14th. What do you serve a group of Bay Area foodies, you may ask? Well, the USF team’s delectable menu items not only satiated the guests but also impressed them: California Cubano Sandwich, Grilled Fitz Fresh Portobello Mushroom Sandwich, Three Bean Salad, Three Green Salad, Fresh Mini Blueberry and […]

The USDA is studying the impact of climate change on the US food system. How about looking at how the US food system is impacting climate change? We’ve gathered a fair amount of science on the connection between food and climate change but much of the research is based in Europe. It’s time for the USDA to start exploring the changes all Americans can make to reduce global warming. – Maisie Greenawalt, Vice President

I’m not sure I remember what my office looks like, but I’ve had excellent reasons to stay away this week. I visited a tomato farm 35 miles north of LA that shook my definition of “local tomato.” (Yes, I felt the earthquake, but that’s not the shaking I mean.) In addition to organic heirlooms densely grown with the aid of sophisticated monitoring equipment to measure water absorption (I’ve become a tomato geek), I saw a temperature-controlled greenhouse dependent on seed beds from the Netherlands. Setting aside the energy-intensity of this production system (which is enormous), do these tomatoes still qualify as ‘local’ to LA? Later that evening, I gave a talk on the food system’s contribution to climate change before a very enthusiastic audience in Santa Monica. They asked me questions for an hour after a 60-minute presentation. One audience […]

Check out this Peak Season Map put out by Epicurious, the website for Bon Appetit (no relation to us) and Gourmet magazines. It’s a fun little tool that allows you to see what’s in season around the country at different times of year. – Maisie Greenawalt, Vice President