I must admit, when I first saw Daniel Klein walk by me during the conference breakfast, I was a little starstruck (just like most celebrities, I expected him to be taller!). There he was in the flesh instead of in some barn in the middle of nowhere interviewing a farmer.
Klein is a true mover and shaker in the food movement. He is extremely passionate, open and kind. Oh, and a little crazy. You see, he and his love, Mirra Fine (aka the cameragirl), travel around the country creating mini documentaries about sustainable food. For almost two years they’ve released a new film every week. I’m not even sure how you drive to some far away destination, film for hours, edit for hours, add cool music (from unknown and unsigned bands no less!) and release a film that showcases a tiny part of sustainable America. Klein and Fine are The Perennial Plate.
I’ve been following this dynamic duo for 8 months or so and genuinely enjoy their work. Meeting them in person at the 2012 Edible Institute earlier this month brought my admiration for what they do to a whole new level. It was amazing to hear them speak and tell their story.
This week we are showcasing films shown at the 2012 Edible Institute (“EI”).
“In your lifetime, you have eating something produced by child labor” – U Robert Romano
U Roberto Romano does not shy away from a challenge. On the contrary, he takes subjects that no one wants to talk about and makes them into story-telling art. This award-winning photographer and producer, was at the EI 2012 to show two films, both of which center on the grim issue of child labor. Romano is a champion for children’s rights and I feel so fortunate to have heard his passion in person.
The biggest tragedy surrounding child labor in other countries is that it isn’t news anymore. What does it say about humanity when we’ve almost come to expect that miniature hands from Indonesia, India and Cambodia sew our clothes? It is estimated that there are 215 million child laborers in the world and, just so you can understand the magnitude of this number, the entire population of the Untied States is 313 million people. This is an epic, worldwide issue that affects not only children abroad, but also American children in our own back yards.
This week we are showcasing films shown at the 2012 Edible Institute (“EI”).
The first time I saw Back to the Start, I almost started crying. I couldn’t believe that a mainstream company, even one as progressive as Chipotle, would release something like this. Sometimes I get lost in my little bubble of foodie-Santa Barbara where people discuss GMOs, CAFOs, Monstanto, and the Farm Bill at dinner parties. Then, I’ll visit friends out of town and realize that the American food norm is far, far away from my little world. A corporate company making a video about factory farming is abnormal.
I honestly thought that everyone had seen it (make sure to scroll down to the bottom for the making-of video too!). Except, when I asked my dad, brother and best friend, they hadn’t heard about it. Perhaps airing the video during the Grammys wasn’t enough?
I want all eaters to see this movie! Why? Because in 2 minutes and 20 seconds, Chipotle manages to tell a simple story of a farmer who moves from a sustainable family farm to an industrial animal factory and then realizes he needs to go back to where he started. I believe in baby steps. I believe that everyone needs to understand where their food comes from and how it’s made. That’s why my brother and I started Be Food Smart in the first place. In the food movement, there is so much talk about reaching those beyond “the choir.” The beauty of this mini movie is its simplicity and ability to reach the mainstream with a message they are not hearing right now. While Chipotle is certainly not perfect, they are a tiny stride in the right direction and, quite frankly, the food movement needs all the help it can get.
It should be a rule never to have a Spring-forward, daylight savings time change in the middle of a two-day conference. I was exhausted from both the information packed day on Saturday and the evening gala, and didn’t expect 9:45am to feel so early. I was determined to ignore the tiredness and focus as it was day two of the Edible Institute (“EI” – click here to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this three-part series).
Note: The second day of EI, included several video and film viewings. Rather than include them all in this already too long blog post, we’ll be devoting next week to videos. Visit each day to watch these fabulous food-related video clips.
Telling Sustainable Meat Stories
I have to admit that the title of the first panel, wasn’t rocking my world. I was, however, impressed that the EI staff had managed to secure Chris Arnold, the Director of Communications for Chipotle. Also gracing the panel was Jeff Tripican, CMO & EVP of Sales for Niman Ranch, Will Harris who is president of White Oak Pastures and finally, Whole Foods Markets’ Meat Coordinator, Dave Ruedlinger. Boy was I in for a meaty treat.
The Chipotle story is truly fascinating. Founder Steve Ells essentially threw out the fast food restaurant model and started from scratch when he opened the first Chipotle restaurant in 1993. Over the years, the chain has grown and evolved to include: organic black beans, no dairy (sour cream and cheese) from cows treated with rBGH growth hormones, only antibiotic-free chicken, and are working towards a higher percentage of naturally raised beef and local suppliers. Arnold notes that, “We have the highest food cost of any restaurant [chain] in the industry and the highest profits…while we’re far from perfect, it’s surprising that more restaurant companies haven’t followed our model.” In 2000, Chipotle decided to move to all sustainably-raised pork and this meant a $1 increase to the carnitas for the customers. Arnold explains that many of their customers eat at Chipotle because they like the food, not because of any social message.
One of my favorite aspects of the Edible Institute (EI) is that it’s still a small and intimate affair. You know a conference rocks when virtually every speaker and presenter sticks around to listen to the other panels. It’s interesting to hear their questions and sit with them at lunch. I know they are just regular-ole people, but it’s special to have the opportunity to actually talk to “food movement celebrities” at an event. If you’ve been following along, this is the second post in the EI 2012 recap (click here for Part 1).
After lunch, conference participants lingered outside the Hyatt Santa Barbara attempting to absorb every last drop of sunshine possible before going inside. Our bodies were fed and it was time for more thought-provoking panels.
“Basically any food company that has enough money to advertise is evil” – Darya Pino
I was particularly interested in the Creating Food Communities on the Web panel (hmm…wonder why). I’d been following one of the panelists, Dayra Pino of Summer Tomato for a few years and was excited to see her name on the agenda. Pino’s background is nothing short of impressive with a degree in molecular & cell biology and a PhD in neuroscience. This woman is smart, skinny, well-spoken, very attractive, successful, and young. It’s hard not to feel a wee bit jealous.
“I didn’t want to preach to the choir.” Pino said that she appeals to people’s selfishness and desire to be thin with blog post titles like, 20 Ways to Eat Dessert and Stay Skinny! These posts draw all types of people in and by the end of the article they’ve learned a few things about industrial food. Pino reveled that even with her high website traffic rates, that it is still very difficult to monetize a site. “Basically any food company that has enough money to advertise is evil” she joked. I spoke with her for a few minutes at the evening gala event where she divulged that it was just 6 months ago that she was able to quit her day job and live off Summer Tomato. I’m not sure if this is helpful or super depressing news!
Nourishment comes in various forms. The physical body is nourished with food and drink. The soul, however, is a bit more complex as nourishment means different things to different people. Religion feeds this part of the being for many. For others, it’s doing something that makes them feel like a better person. For me, it is being surrounded by people who love me unconditionally or sitting in a room full of people who care deeply about the same things I do. What is that you ask? Food. Nutritious, accessible, healthy-for-you and healthy-for-the-planet food.
This was my second year attending the Edible Institute (“EI” and to see the conversation on Twitter #edi2012). Last year’s conference made quite an impression on me leaving 2012 with some seriously huge shoes to fill. If you are not familiar with Edible, they are beautiful magazines filled with everything food-related local to that area, or as they say, Award Winning Magazines That Celebrate Local Foods, Season by Season. There are almost 70 Edible magazines and publishers flew in from all over the United States and Canada this past Wednesday to attend a publishers’ conference. Saturday morning Edible Institute ignited bringing publishers together with filmmakers, food writers, farmers, activists, fisherman, ranchers, winemakers, bloggers, and yours truly. I can tell you that the 2012 EI did not disappoint. The notion that one person can make a difference thoroughly resonated. It penetrated my self-doubt and reminded me that what I do matters and does make a difference.
“Life is just a series of breakdowns and breakthroughs. Not everyone will breakthrough, but everyone should have the choice.” – Nikki Henderson
I knew very little about Nikki Henderson when she walked up to the podium to deliver her keynote speech, other than the fact that she looked stunning in her fitted, cafe-au-lait colored knit dress and short, tight dreadlocks. Her bio told me that she was the Executive Director of People’s Grocery in Oakland, CA and a champion for food justice for the poor. Henderson told her food story which encompassed her time in her mama’s womb, her mother’s decision to breastfeed, seeing kale for the first time at 23, and learning what really worked for the impoverished and underfed people of Oakland. She’s wise beyond her years, funny, eloquent, and oh so passionate about what she stands for. The captivating oration was an all-around yummy way to launch a 2-day food movement conference.
Highlight: Henderson’s reminder that “food justice has to be for everyone who doesn’t have someone to fight for them.” That may mean the farmer on the other side of the political aisle who doesn’t have a voice (yes, the one who votes for the other guy) . She ended her speech by asking, “Who do you have to be to help the movement?” It was a profound and rather humbling moment. Not sure what my answer is…I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
Would you give a year of your life to serve the greater good? No, we’re not talking about the Peace Corps, this is the FoodCorps. Modeled after the Peace Corps, this program is looking for new recruits to “plant school gardens, teach kids about healthy food, and change what’s for lunch.” FoodCorps members are asked to commit to a year of service and will receive a yearly stipend (I’m not sure how much), help with student loans, health insurance, and career mentoring. In return, “you get to grow healthy food, grow your career and grow your community.” It sounds like an amazing opportunity for our young people to engage in, especially considering the tough economy right now. Please share with anyone who you think may be interested.
This video is a commercial for FoodCorps. It was shown at the 2011 Edible Institute food conference in Santa Barbara where I had the pleasure of attending. The very passionate and talented Debra Eschmeyer was a panelist at the event and is the co-founder Food Corps. The program is launching in selected cities initially and will go nationwide by the end of 2011.