by Lilia Smelkova
I have probably always wanted to work in food without knowing it. Growing up in Belarus, Eastern Europe, I spent summers in the country where we foraged in the fields, gathered mushrooms and stomped on the hay in the neighbor’s barn to pack it for winter. I got my first job in Italy with Slow Food, an international food nonprofit, where I worked for 10 years, developing the Slow Food network in Europe and Canada, working with family farmers, and directing the launch of an international education program that birthed the first European network of sustainable school cafeterias.
When I learned that the Center for Science in the Public Interest was looking for a campaign manager for the first national Food Day on October 24, 2011, the challenge of advancing the campaign looked very attractive. The way America eats has an impact on the world food production and consumption.
It was not until I started to travel around the country to meet organizers and partners in Dallas, Minneapolis, Oakland, Sacramento, Denver and other cities, that we knew that Food Day would be a success, used by real food advocates as a platform to accelerate thousands of ongoing initiatives around the country. Food Day organizers in Arizona, Georgia, New York, Oregon, and elsewhere are looking forward to connect to a nationwide network of change-makers through the first national day of action around food issues.
Food Day is on October 24 every year. It’s a nationwide celebration and a movement towards more healthy, affordable, and sustainably produced food. In its second year, Food Day will be observed with more than 2,000 events all around the country, including festivals in Baltimore, New York City, and Savannah, and a conference on The Future of Food: 2050 in the United States Capitol in Washington, DC. Thousands of schools in Boston, Detroit, Chicago, and other cities will celebrate Food Day with a special meal; the city of Madison, WI, will launch its new food policy council; and chefs and restaurants country-wide will promote farmers, local menus, and taste education classes.
Food Day brings together organizations and individuals working on diverse issues such as hunger, nutrition, agriculture policy, animal welfare, and farmworker justice. Think of it as an Earth Day for food issues.
- Promote safer, healthier diets
- Support sustainable and organic farms
- Reduce hunger
- Reform factory farms to protect the environment
- Support fair working conditions for food and farm workers
Food Day is backed by over 80 Advisory Board members and co-chaired by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and includes Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, Alice Waters, Dan Barber, Ellie Krieger and Oran Hesterman, among others. We also partner with groups like American Public Health Association, Farmers Market Coalition, Chefs Collaborative and hundreds of other nonprofit organizations, student leaders, public offices, school districts, and local organizers.
For this year’s Food Day, the Rodale Institute will hold a Harvest Festival in Pennsylvania featuring organic food, with proceeds going to the Institute’s Heritage Breed Livestock program. In Denver, the Denver Botanical Gardens along with other community partners will hold a free day-long festival with hands-on cooking demonstrations for adults and kids, film screenings, and an address by Mayor Michael B. Hancock. Perhaps the biggest Food Day event will be a massive festival in Savannah, where some 10,000 are expected to enjoy food, music, and exhibitors at the city’s Daffin Park.
Food Day will be also celebrated on more than 200 campuses and in thousands of schools. In Massachusetts, more than 200 school nutrition directors in 45 school districts are committed to participate in Food Day and will challenge students to “Eat Real” on October 24.
Over the past months, it’s been exciting to count the number of events on the map at FoodDay.org and see it grow daily. For those who won’t be able to make it to a Food Day event in person, the Eat Real Quiz provides an easy way for people to learn about the impact of their diets and to spread the word about Food Day. It scores the diets’ impact on health, environment, and farm animals. The results can be shared on Twitter and Facebook.
Check FoodDay.org for events that are scheduled near you. I hope you will join the tens of thousands of Americans who are planning or attending Food Day events. Or you could simply celebrate at home with a special meal for friends and family.