Atlanta Field Trip: Re-Imagining Our Food Systems

Church, raised beds

Recently, Philanthropy Indaba announced that it is in the process of researching trips in the U.S. and Canada, in addition to continuing to develop escorted group trips around the world.  As a test-run, in conjunction with a consortium of family offices in the Southeast, Philanthropy Indaba co-hosted an afternoon field trip in Atlanta last month to expose a small group of participants to the current “food” issues facing many in the U.S., in particular, under-served communities and public schools.

What resulted was an eye-opening tour through Truly Living Well’s Center for Urban Agriculture in Atlanta’s 4th Ward and further discussion with key team members of Wholesome Wave Georgia and FoodCorps.

In the days following the field trip, we heard from a few of the participants expressing how they felt after our little event: “It was inspirational to me!” “I had such a great experience and went home last night, and came back to work today, with renewed energy.”

Here are some video clips and photos from our little adventure as well as a mini-interview with a Wholesome Wave Georgia’s President of the Board, Judith Winfrey, about how local chefs are giving back.

Videos: Rashid Nuri, Founder of Truly Living Well, talking about their program and the value it brings to the local community; Debra Eschmeyer, Co- Founder of FoodCorps, gives us an intro and tells us a story that surprised many in our group.

Wholesome Wave Georgia believes that all Georgians should have access to good, wholesome and locally-grown food. Their goal is to increase access to good food for all Georgians while contributing to the local food economy. By doubling each federal or state nutrition benefit (food stamps) dollar spent at local farmers markets, they are able to leverage existing government food nutrition programs to encourage shopping at local farmers markets.

Many restaurants and chefs in the area support Wholesome Wave Georgia and other organizations. I wanted to find out more about the solidarity in this tight-knit community so I spoke with Judith Winfrey (“JW”), Executive Director of Leadership & Hospitality at Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch Public House, H&F Bread Co., H&F Bottle Shop, self-proclaimed food “busy-body,” and President of the Board, Wholesome Wave Georgia.

MF: Chefs with their new-found celebrity status are now great advocates for some of the issues they see locally. How are chefs in Atlanta (and other places) getting involved in some of the challenges around food currently being brought to light in our country? What has moved them to get involved?

JW: Most chefs have a natural proclivity toward generosity.  Those who cook, usually always want to feed and share.  Many chefs also have a fundamental understanding of the value of good food, the work it takes to produce it, and the improved quality and nutrition it can provide.  For these reasons, we see many chefs, most famously Chef Hugh Acheson on Top Chef and Chef Michel Nishan, founder of Wholesome Wave, supporting organizations which support local, sustainable and organic agriculture and increase access to good food for all.

MF: We just had a fabulous little reception at  Empire State South – a restaurant owned by Wholesome Wave supporter, Chef Hugh Acheson – after our field trip. How have local chefs rallied around the mission of Wholesome Wave?

JW: Wholesome Wave Georgia hosts an annual fundraiser, The Southern Chef’s Potluck.  The event is hosted by the incomparable Steve and Marie Nygren at Serenbe.  Chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch Public House invites a handful of the south’s most celebrated chefs to join the dinner.  Years past has included Anne Quatrano of Bacchanalia, Floataway Cafe and Abbatoir, Chef Ford Fry from JCT Kitchen, Chef Kevin Gillespie of Gunshow, Chef Steven Satterfield of Miller Union, Chef Hilary White of the Hil, and Chef Joe Truex of Watershed.   Each chef brings a side dish to share, a pickle and a dessert to share.  Jim n’ Nick’s provides amazing BBQ with proteins provided by Will Harris and his 6th generation family farm: White Oak Pastures.  All chefs bring their families and sit down to share the meal with the guests.  This year’s potluck is Sunday, September 8, 2013. (slideshow below)

MF: Wow, that event may be worth a plane trip to Atlanta. What other organizations are chefs and the restaurant community supporting locally?

JW: Other organizations that Chefs in our area are excited about supporting are The Global Growers Project, Community Farmers Markets (CFM), the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG), Slow Food and the Southern Foodways Alliance.

MF: How do you see restaurants using the way they conduct their business to express the food “values” that are important to them and the community? In other words, walking the talk.

JW: A number of restaurateurs and chefs in Atlanta put their spending power behind their good food values are.  They buy directly small farmers and lend support to organizations like SSAWG, CFM, Slow Food and Wholesome Wave which support the work of the farmers, who of course are not only providing healthy food to the community, but also, carefully stewarding a piece of land for minimal environmental impact, and providing jobs (often times in rural areas) and stimulating the local food economy.  We know that for every dollar spent on local food, nearly 75 cents stays in the local economy.  So the chefs who are buying from farmers really have a tremendous impact that reaches beyond just their contributions to food culture.  Their helping protect the environment and contributing to a robust food economy.

MF: You’ve got a pretty substantial day job as well as being a self-proclaimed food busy-body. How do you see your role in the food community?

JW: As Executive Director of Leadership & Hospitality at Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch Public House, H&F Bread Co., H&F Bottle Shop, part of my role is to help shepherd the next generation of conscious food purchasers and eaters.  I am a cheerleader for farmers.  I am an advocate and an activist for good, clean and fair food for all.  I also own a small organic farm (Love is Love Farm at Gaia Gardens) with my husband.  I am deeply committed to this movement.

MF: I’m really inspired….and full after all this delicious food. Thanks Judith!

JW: Thanks Maryann. I do hope you’ll come back to our area.  I think we could put together a fantastic food and philanthropy journey through the southeast.

MF: I may need to take you up on that.

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On a related issue: HUNGER IN AMERICA. Check out the powerful documentary “A Place at the Table,” a deeply personal look at people struggling with food insecurity every day. It will shock you. More info:

The Board Chair of the Nathan Cummings Foundation spent a week eating on approximately $5.27 a day (equivalent of daily food stamp budget for someone living in New York).  He ended the week with a renewed commitment to fixing this broken system. Here’s his post on the Philanthropy New York Blog



~ by Maryann Fernandez on March 21, 2013.

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