Culinary Institutes Cook Up a Recipe For Social Change


As our ideas about food continue to rapidly evolve, many of us have begun to understand the connection between eating well and sustaining a just and healthy planet. Popular chefs and restaurants now have the unique opportunity (some might say responsibility) to educate eaters of the world about food that is not only delicious but also ethically produced and environmentally sustainable. Chefs are also starting to influence the practices of food producers and policy makers across the globe.

Culinary leaders such as Tom Colicchio and Alice Waters have been sounding the trumpet for edible social change for decades now. The idea has really gained traction of late, as larger culinary institutes join in on the cause, working to educate, promote and encourage healthy changes within the food industry and beyond.

Here are a few examples of culinary institutes that are working for social change. This is only a small sampling of all the wonderful works being done by Chefs nowadays. We are encouraged and inspired by these larger culinary institutes and programs turning their focus towards social and environmental good.   

Stone Barns Center For Food And Agriculture 

Stone Barns Center, located on 80 acres of farmland only 25 miles from New York City, educates patrons on where their food comes from as well as the kinds of sustainable agricultural practices required to produce it. As a nonprofit, they “are working to change the way America eats and farms,” and further describe their mission as encompassing…

  • Experimenting with and improve sustainable farming practices.

  • Training beginning farmers in resilient, regenerative farming techniques.

  • Helping children discover the sources of their food while preparing them to steward the land that provides it.

  • Increasing public awareness of healthy, seasonal and sustainable food.

Stone Barns has become an immensely popular destination, offering farm tours, gardening and cooking classes, “farmer training,” and even the chance to get your hands dirty  in the garden for “food citizens and farmers” every week, Wednesdays through Sundays. 

Chef Boot Camp For Policy Change

Chef Boot Camp For Policy Change is a program through the James Beard Foundation, which offers thematic retreats around the country. Here civic- and politically minded chefs receive advocacy and media training while learning about important issues, challenges, and opportunities facing the food world. In addition, each camp includes...

  • Hands-on activities that engage chefs with local natural resources and activities such as harvests at local farms, and visits to slaughterhouses, fisheries, and other producers

  • Educational sessions about pressing food-system topics, such as the Farm Bill or sustainable fisheries

  • Exposure to campaigns of partner organizations, such as the Pew Charitable Trusts’ campaign against antibiotic overuse in livestock

  • Strategic brainstorming about effective action points and next steps

Past locations have included, New York, Louisiana, Arkansas and California.

Chefs Collaborative 

Chefs Collaborative highlights the power chefs have in sourcing products, serving food, and operating sustainably. Their slogan Change Menus. Change Lives defines chefs as powerful agents of change, and joining the Collaborative is a way for like-minded Chefs to network and band together for a better food system: 

The greater culinary community can be a catalyst for positive change by creating a market for good food and helping preserve local farming and fishing communities.”

Image via Flickr



Read all articles by Juniper Briggs

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