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Sustainable Food Events: Connecting Farm Labor and Food Service
February 2, 2010, Volume 56, No. 20

Bon Appétit takes the next step in ensuring that the food served at Penn is not only produced sustainably, but also justly.

Three recent college graduates were hired as fellows by Bon Appétit to gather information about best labor and sustainability practices on the farms that supply the company’s 400 cafés in 30 states across the country. The fellows are now visiting college campuses to share information about the company’s supply chain with students, faculty, staff, and chefs and kitchen workers who prepare the food in the cafés.

Yesterday, East Coast Bon Appétit Fellow Carolina Fojo, in collaboration with Penn student Danny LaFuente, kicked off the University of Pennsylvania’s week of sustainable food issues with an event on farmworker rights: Farmworker Rights: What do Tomatoes Have to do with Slavery? That was the first of five events to  be held this week, each with a different theme: farmworker rights, sustainability, food justice, nutrition and society, and challenges within the food industry.

• February 2: Sustainability and the Philadelphia Foodshed; dinner and panel featuring individuals who are working to provide sustainably sourced food to Philadelphians and the Penn community. Sustainable food will be served; 5-7 p.m. Lower Level, 1920 Commons; RSVP: tuesday.food@gmail.com (Bon Appétit at Penn Dining;  FarmEcology; Fox Leadership).

• February 3: Mind the Food Gap; dinner and conversation bringing together various communities in Philadelphia to talk about food justice; Sustainable food will be served; 6-7:30 p.m. Lower Level, 1920 Commons; RSVP: http://foodgap.eventbrite.com/ (Penn Garden; Penn Bioethics Society; Penn Urban Nutrition Initiative Club).

• February 4: Food and You: Health and Nutrition; question and answer seminar and luncheon featuring sustainable food and Dr. Stella Volpe, registered dietitian; noon-1:30 p.m.; Amado Recital Hall, Irvine Auditorium; RSVP: nsladley@sas.upenn.edu (Health and Societies Student Advisory Board; Bon Appétit).

• February 4: How to Prepare Healthy Food: A Kitchen Tour of Bon Appétit; sustainable food, cooking demonstration and kitchen tour by Bon Appétit, featuring registered dietitian Terri Brownlee and Chef Lydia Kumpa; 7:30 p.m. Kings Court Dining Hall.

• February 5: Food Inc.: Hungry for Change Film Screening; Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here; 6:30-8:30 p.m.; rm. 402, Claudia Cohen Hall.

All events are free and open to the public. All students, staff and faculty interested in learning more about where their food comes from, sustainable agricultural practices, and social and economic justice for farmers and farmworkers are encouraged to attend. See https://sites.google.com/site/foodweekpenn/ for more info.

This week is a collaboration between Bon Appétit and a number of student groups, including: UCCANF, CAUSA, Fox Leadership, the Penn Garden, Penn Bioethics Society, Penn Urban Nutrition Initiative Club, the Health and Societies Student Advisory Board, among others. Bon Appétit will be providing sustainable food for three of the week’s events.

Carolina Fojo graduated in May 2009 with honors from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in cultural anthropology. Ms. Fojo has lived with indigenous Fair Trade coffee producers in Oaxaca, Mexico and interned with UN affiliated NGOs on Fair Trade and worker migration issues. Having experienced first-hand the issues that lead to migration, she has a unique perspective on the lives of farmworkers in the US.

“One of my biggest realizations in college was that everything has a story; everything comes from somewhere, including my food. A cup of coffee is not just a cup of coffee—it’s the people who trekked through the fields, hand picking each bean. It’s where they live, their communities, it’s wildlife, it’s the environment. All of us—the food industry, Bon Appétit, we as individual consumers—have a role to play in making sure the “story of food” is a positive one. I’m thrilled that, through Bon Appétit, I have the opportunity to let students know about that role,” said Ms. Fojo.

The fellows were hired to visit farms across the Midwest, and the East and West Coasts respectively and speak with farmers about their struggles in producing food sustainably, fostering farm biodiversity, addressing farm waste, and creating an economically sustainable operation that will allow them to treat workers fairly and pay them a living wage.

The program’s mission is to gather information that will lead to better partnerships with farms of all sizes that supply the company’s kitchens. The overall goal is to help farmers build and improve on existing relationships with all their buyers as a way to regionalize and strengthen the country’s food supply chain, and improve food security and overall sustainability for the future. 

Bon Appétit began buying direct from farmers through its Farm-to-Fork local sourcing program 10 years ago. What began as a way to address the loss of flavor in food as a result of industrial agricultural practices and long shipping distances has broadened in scope. Following a 2009 visit to Florida’s tomato fields and talks with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Bon Appétit pledged to forge a new role for itself in addressing labor issues throughout its entire supply chain. The fellows’ work is the next step on the path of justice and fairness for farm workers.


Almanac - February 2, 2010, Volume 56, No. 20