Why Food Matters

Friday, April 21, 2017

Chef Rick Bayless with moderator Sheila Kemper Dietrich and Deb Eschmeyer, former Executive Director of First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" Initiative

This past week my husband and I helped launch and participated in a new series at the Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The series was entitled Why Food Matters! A Taste of Things To Come. Thought leaders, innovators and activists of the Good Food Movement gathered to discuss all variety of issues from food insecurity and food deserts to growing, buying and preparing food locally to how to better manage our resources long term, including reducing food waste and, of course, how to engage people, especially our children, in eating and living healthier lives.

I had the distinct pleasure of being the moderator for the inaugural keynote session entitled Why Food Matters: Nourishing Our Bodies and the Land.  We had two incredible speakers – Rick Bayless and Deb Eschmeyer. Rick is a world-class chef known for his PBS Series, now in its 11th season, his 9 cookbooks and his numerous Frontera restaurants. He is the founder of the Chefs Collaborative and the Frontera Foundation that gives grants to small farmers. Deb Eschmeyer is the former executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative and senior White House policy adviser for nutrition and co-founder of FoodCorps, a national nonprofit that places AmeriCorps leaders into schools to connect kids to healthy foods. She is a recipient of the James Beard Leadership Award.

Each speaker talked about their passion for being in touch with where food comes from, engaging others in the joys and benefits of experiencing good, healthy food and how the world is a much better place when all people have access to healthy foods. The most encouraging part of the discussion was that both Rick and Deb believe it is possible to give access to good, healthy food to all people no matter their income or location. Models of this possibility exist across the country. Already the successful programs are expanding to reach more people. FoodCorps is just such an example. It is a young nonprofit that has succeeded in expanding into 500 schools in 18 states. A key focus of the program is starting school gardens where the children are active participants. As one speaker noted, “The garden is the gateway to transforming a school, its cafeteria, and kid’s eating habits. “

For those of us who focus on healthy eating because of our desire to manage our weight and maximize our health, we need to be aware that how we live our lives is part of a bigger picture of food access and healthy eating. Whether we realize it or not, we are part of a big movement, the Good Food Movement, to improve lives through access to healthy foods and healthier eating. What became apparent to me while attending this new series Why Food Matters is that food is at the corps of our lives and touches everything. It is embedded in our values, our policies, our economy, our culture, our traditions, our collective memory, our language, the very quality of our lives, and our way of life. 
Deb Eschmeyer, co-founder of FoodCorps and Sheila Kemper Dietrich

Anyone dedicated to healthier eating and a healthier lifestyle is part of the Good Food Movement.  We are all having an impact, whether we realize it or not. It is more powerful, I think, if we do realize it. Together we can make this world a healthier place for everyone, starting with ourselves. And as Michael Pollen is famous for saying, “Eat good food, not too much, mostly vegetables.”

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