On October 24, a diverse range of organizations, public officials, and Americans from all walks of life celebrated Food Day—a nationwide grassroots mobilization that encourages Americans to eat healthy, delicious food grown in a sustainable and humane way and to advocate for smarter food policies. Spearheaded by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Day was observed in all 50 states with more than 2,000 events from coast to coast.
In the heart of Times Square, 50 notables from the food movement, including restaurateur Mario Batali, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, Food Network host Ellie Krieger, nutritionist Marion Nestle, and several dozen area food activists staged an Eat Real “Eat In.” The group came together at a communal table, shared a healthy and sustainable meal (with most ingredients from the farmers market and recipes from Krieger’s latest cookbook, Comfort Food Fix), and engaged in spirited conversation about the critical food policy issues facing the city and the nation. During the Eat In, the Reuters/Nasdaq signs in Times Square will carry Food Day messages.
“The typical American diet is promoting major health problems, causing serious environmental pollution, and unintentionally creating poor working conditions for those who harvest, process, and prepare our food,” said Michael F. Jacobson, CSPI’s executive director. “It’s time to urge Americans to change their own diets for the better and to mobilize for desperately needed changes in food and farm policy.”
In just a few months, the campaign gained tremendous significant momentum, including the active participation of numerous grassroots-oriented partners, like Slow Food USA, the labor group Unite Here, and the campus-based Real Food Challenge. Change.org is devoting its
homepage to food issues addressed on Food Day. Dole Food Company and Bolthouse Farms have placed millions of Food Day stickers on bananas and bags of carrots, respectively. Media partners including Cooking Channel and the wellness-oriented cable channel Veria Living have promoted Food Day. Condé-Nast’s award-winning Epicurious.com teamed up with Whole Foods Market to encourage dinner parties aimed at raising money for local food charities.
More than 30 governors and mayors have proclaimed October 24 as Food Day, including those in Colorado, Ohio, Oregon, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington, DC. Special Food Day menus will be served in all Detroit public schools. Schools across the nation are hosting Food Day events as part of the ongoing National Farm to School Month celebration. In Washington, the National Archives is hosting a Food Day Open House in conjunction with its “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” exhibit.
In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg handed out New York State-grown apples to commuters in Queens to observe Food Day, and will appear on ABC’s new daytime show, The Chew. The city’s health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, traveled to Times Square to announce about the city’s expanded campaign to reduce consumption of soda and other sugary drinks. Also on Food Day, the city launched a new food policy web site, www.nyc.gov/nycfood.
The University of California-San Francisco and the Hastings School of Law hosted a conference on food deserts and the food served in prisons. In Savannah, GA, organizers planned a huge outdoor festival expected to draw around 15,000 attendees. Five days of lessons about food are planned in schools in Bentonville, AR. In California, groups including the Prevention Institute, the Strategic Alliance, the Environmental Working Group, and Roots of Change announced a statewide petition drive aimed at improving the next federal Farm Bill.
“Food Day is an important way to focus on the critical need to have well-funded public health agencies that work on preventing diet-related and other diseases,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, who is serving as the Joan H. Tisch Distinguished Fellow in Public Health at Roosevelt House, Hunter College.
Besides events in public places, countless individuals celebrated Food Day at home with especially healthy meals and conversation about food. For inspiration, FoodDay.org has a free recipe booklet featuring recipes from Batali, Rick Bayless, Emeril Lagasse, Nina Simonds, and other top chefs and cooking authorities.
Food Day’s advisory board, chaired by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), includes many of the most prominent voices for change in the food policy world, including urban farming proponent Will Allen, author Michael Pollan, scientists Walter Willett and Kelly Brownell, Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn, former Surgeons General Richard Carmona and David Satcher, chefs Dan Barber, Nora Pouillon, Barton Seaver, and Alice Waters, and other advocates for better health, sustainable agriculture, ending hunger, and improved labor practices.
“The many activities and events spurred by Food Day will help foster a robust dialogue on how to promote better nutrition and health, lessen hunger and increase access to food, enhance opportunities for farm families and rural communities, and conserve natural resources,” said Senator Harkin. “There are differing ideas and perspectives on these issues and surely we all benefit from discussions about the connections among food, farms, and health.”
“Food Day is about bringing people together, celebrating the incredible progress we have made in ensuring that Americans have access to safe, healthy foods—but also to recognize that there is still work to be done,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “A shocking one in five children in this country are termed ‘food insecure,’ which means simply that they likely do not have enough to eat each day. And we have seen in recent weeks a food safety recall of cantaloupes that have resulted in the deaths of 25 people. So on this very first Food Day, let us not only recognize the great strides we have made, but also keep moving forward and making progress towards a better, healthier America.”
Food Day, like CSPI, is people-powered and accepts no funding from corporations or government grants.
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