Today I went to the 4th Annual Food Policy Summit held at the Chicago Cultural Center as a volunteer for Healthy South Chicago Coalition, although in all honesty there wasn’t much “volunteering” to do.
The organization’s mission is “…to facilitate the development of responsible policies that improve access for Chicago residents to culturally appropriate, nutritionally sound, and affordable food that is grown through environmentally sustainable practices.”
The moderator, if memory serves me correctly, was the person who moderated the meeting I sat in on back in late February/early March. (If my facts are wrong, just remember I’m not a real news reporter, I just like to pass on good information).
They had as opening presenters the City Clerk, Miguel del Valle, who spoke about putting policy information on-line so that it is accessible to the individual. There was a time you had to go and search the physical council meeting books and go through pages and pages of documents to find out how votes were cast, now there is a searchable database at the City’s website.
There was Manny Flores, Alderman of the 1st Ward who talked about the issue of restrictive land use covenants that leave neighborhoods without access to grocery stores when the bigger stores pull out of the neighborhoods and dictate how the land can be used when they’re gone. He also talked about a TIF Sunshine Ordinance that would “…force city government to post all TIF documents, from weekly payroll filings to annual reports, on a city-funded website,” allowing Joe Public to see how the city is allocating TIF funds.
Then there were presentations given by:
- Anupama Joshi, Co-Directof of the National Farm to School Network
- Lynn Peemoeller, a Food Systems Planner
- Jim Braun, founder of what is now the Illinois Local Food and Farms Coalition.
- Aaron Durnbaugh, Deputy Commissioner of the Natural Resources and Water Quality Division within the Chicago Department of Environment
- Dinah Ramirez, Executive Director of Healthy South Chicago Coalition
- Karen Lehman, Director of The Fresh Taste Initiative
- Rodger Cooley, USA Program Policy Senior Specialist, Heifer International
After lunch we had break-out sessions.
- Farm to School: Making Chicago’s school food fresh, healthy and local
- Urban Agriculture: Growing more food in the city
- Farmers Markets: Creating and sustaining successful and affordable farmers markets
- Institutional Buying: Government agencies and other institutions (for example, hospitals) buy products from local farmers
- Food Access: Bringing fresh and local food into Chicago’s retail and corner stores
- Health & Just Communities: Promoting health equality through neighborhood-based food and fitness initiatives
- Food Advocacy in Chicago: Tools for getting green things done with city government
I got a chance to meet an actual celebrity, not a celebrity once removed. (Nothing wrong with being a celebrity once removed). Got to meet in the sense of I said, “May I take your picture?” He said yes. I said, “Is it okay to put it on my blog?” He said yes.
Chef Rick Bayless, whose cooking show I watch on my beloved Create TV, Public Television 11.3 here in Chicago, was the keynote speaker. He related how when he first opened his restaurant in 1987 he wanted to do something to make himself stand out from other restaurants. What started as a desire to prepare a special dish using strawberries for his restaurant patrons has evolved into having a rooftop garden where heirloom tomatoes and chili peppers are grown and used by the restaurant in addition to another garden that produces the greens that the restaurant uses.
The quest for the strawberries so many years ago lead to developing relationships with local farmers who grew produce for the resturant. He recounted the spinach story about the farmer who had this great spinach he grew in a low tunnel. He only had one low tunnel, and Chef Bayless struck a deal where he’d front the money for the second low tunnel in exchange for the spinach it produced. That has evolved into a non-profit organization, the Frontera Farmer Foundation, that makes grants to small farmers.
It was a long but interesting day.
I almost forgot. They served the best tea I have ever tasted in my life. It was Jasmine Pearl Organic tea by Rishi. In my humble opinion the packing was not really eco friendly, but I don’t know if that’s a Rishi thing or the caterers If the taste of tea could be beautiful, that was some beautiful tea.