“Farm to table” dining may have become commonplace on Chicago’s restaurant menus. But Chef Paul Virant was in the vanguard of the movement just 13 years when he opened Vie restaurant in the suburb of Western Springs. And he is all about giving back to the community. Within a recent three-day span, Paul did a cooking demo with the Gardeneers audience for schoolchildren in Englewood, then was the honoree for Angelic Organics Learning Center at their annual dinner.
Those involved in the Good Food movement believe that if we are going to build a better food system, we need to start promoting healthier habits among our youngest eaters. Since 2005, Chicago nonprofit Purple Asparagus has put that belief to action, bringing its engaging food literacy program to children kindergarten to 2nd grade in selected Chicago schools.
Pilot Light is a nonprofit organization founded by some of Chicago’s top Good Food chefs to bring food education to students in Chicago Public Schools. And even though school’s out for the summer, Pilot Light is doing events around town to spread the word about its important social mission.
The first thing you notice if you visit a school with a Learning Garden from The Kitchen Community non-profit organization is … joy. The chance to get their instruction outdoors instead of in the classroom — learning to put seeds in soil, nurture the plants, and then harvest the food they have grown — is something the children really seem to relish. Yet it may take a few years, at least for the little ones, to realize what serious purposes are behind this fun school time.
Imagine a school teaching Chicago children from kindergarten through 12th grade on a seven-acre campus — three of those acres devoted to urban agriculture — designed by famed architect Jeanne Gang’s Studio Gang. Imagine this school incorporating local citizenship, sustainability, Good Food, social justice and other values into its curriculum… serving organic, locally sourced, made-from-scratch food in its cafeteria… and producing more energy than it uses. Then imagine this school is not in an upscale Chicago neighborhood or tony suburb, but rather on the industrial, mostly Hispanic, mostly low-income Southwest Side. That is the vision for the expansion of the Academy for Global Citizenship — for which the charter school’s foundation will raise money at its 5th Annual Chefs Playground on June 9 at the Art Institute of Chicago.
It is alway a joyous day when FamilyFarmed gets to visit a school garden that gives children the tools to learn how to grow food and other plants. The Kitchen Community nonprofit installed a new garden at Wendell Smith Elementary on Chicago’s far South Side May 30, and the enthusiasm of the children who helped in the planting was infectious. But the trip was even more rewarding, because a $2 million donation to The Kitchen Community from Wells Fargo Bank was announced at a ceremony at the end of the installation
Chefs Erling Wu-Bower of Chicago’s Nico Osteria and Cosmo Goss of The Publican are two of the biggest young stars on the city’s and nation’s restaurant scene. So when they went to their boss at the hugely successful One Off Hospitality Group — James Beard Award winning chef Paul Kahan — a few months ago to tell him that they planned to open their own restaurant, Paul says, “Man, my brain exploded.” But Paul himself had benefited from the nurturing and encouragement of the chefs from whom he learned, such as Rick Bayless, and he and his business partners are helping Erling and Cosmo plan and develop their restaurant. All three chefs will participate on Sunday in the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration fundraiser at The Art Institute of Chicago.
Jason Hammel of the critically acclaimed Lula Café is a rarity among Chicago’s top chefs, in that he did not learn the craft in the kitchens of culinary legends. Jason is essentially self-taught. But he counts Chicago legends such as Rick Bayless, Paul Kahan and Matthias Merges as his role models and mentors. Like them, he has played a major role in sourcing from local and regional farmers. We are honored to have Jason as a participating chef at the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration, a joint fundraiser for Chef Rick Bayless‘ Frontera Farmer Foundation and FamilyFarmed, which will be held at The Art Institute of Chicago on Sunday, April 30.
The three pillars of the Good Food movement are a healthier, a more environmentally sustainable, and more economically dynamic food system that puts Good Food on Every Table. This year’s Festival will put a special accent on that first pillar — Good Food’s massive contribution to building a society with healthier, happier people and lower health care costs — with panels on Good Food is Good Medicine and Food and Mood.
Tim Magner works to integrate food education with fun through Chicago-based programs such as Nature’s Farm Camp. He reports that the longterm decline in the quality and nutrition in school food is being reversed, in sync with the rise of the Good Food movement. More school gardens, more cooking classes, more efforts by many administrators to find healthier choices for students. In his article below, Tim describes the positive impact that is having for our nation’s schoolchildren and our food system in general.
The promise of healthier snack food alone would have made Chicago’s Tea Squares an excellent candidate for FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Business Accelerator. But Tea Squares’ social mission — which includes creating jobs and stimulating economic growth in its challenged South Side community — was a clincher.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Thursday announced the seven food retailers selected to participate in a seven-state pilot to test online grocery purchases by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants.
“Team Leverage,” a collaboration of three major Good Food entities in the Chicago region, faced serious competition from four other strong finalists in the Food to Market Challenge. The team won the $500,000 award because of a strong social purpose — bringing healthy, nutritious, affordable food to more school children and their families — plus a distribution model with strong potential to be expanded in Chicago and replicated elsewhere.
Chicago’s Green City Market is known as one of the nation’s premier farmers market. The Market’s big annual public celebration is its Chef BBQ, which is coming up next week on Thursday, July 21. The event is kind of a foodie fantasy camp, but there is also an important social mission. Green City Market executive director Melissa Flynn discusses in the latest installment of our “Farm to Table: Keeping It Real” series.
There are few people in the restaurant business who have kept farm to table real better — or longer — than Chicago’s Helen and Mike Cameron. They opened Uncommon Ground in 1991 and ever since have been blazing trails in providing diners with locally and sustainable produced food. Read about their ahead-of-the-curve experiences and their 25th anniversary events in the latest installment of our “Farm to Table: Keeping It Real” series.
The Kitchen was founded in Boulder, Colorado in 2004 and features delicious food with a strong focus on local and sustainable sourcing at its restaurants. And The Kitchen goes beyond the core Good Food principles with its strong social mission, embodied in its school learning gardens program. Johnny Anderes, head chef of the The Kitchen location in Chicago, discussed the restaurant’s Good Food practices.
Nature’s Farm Camp is an overnight camp, on a working farm, that immerses Chicago-area kids in a fantastic food-and-outdoor adventure. Tim Magner, in this contributed article, explains how in a world where kids are bombarded with hyper-processed foods loaded with fat, sugar and salt, Nature’s Farm Camp shows them something different — and better — in a beautiful natural environment that connects them with where food comes from.
There was plenty of food to eat at FamilyFarmed’s March 26 Good Food Festival, which drew thousands of attendees for the annual big public celebration of the fast-growing Good Food movement. But the program at the Festival, which included expert panels, artisan workshops and chef demonstrations, also provided plenty of food for thought. This photo essay provides a flavor of the event.
FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Festival is this Saturday at the UIC Forum on the campus of University of Illinois at Chicago. With exciting activities for adults and children too, it is hard to boil down the list of things to do. But we think this Top 10 Reasons to Attend the Festival list will be a useful guide.
FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Festival this Saturday caps our three-day, 12th annual Good Food Festival & Conference. The Festival is our big public celebration of the fast-growing Good Food movement, and we say “public,” we mean the youngest among us, too! It is a very family-friendly event, and children 12 and younger get in free!