Farm dinners have become a popular facet of “agritourism,” with farms working with chefs to bring “farm to table” dining back to the source. Dozens are held each year just in the Chicago food region alone. But most of the participating farms are well out in the country, requiring a day trip or an overnight stay. That location is what makes The Talking Farm’s dinner on Sept. 10 distinctive. The farm is just outside Chicago’s city limits and a short Sunday drive for most residents of the metropolitan area.
“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 the chef-driven program that helps Chicago Public Schools integrate food and nutrition education into their students’ overall curriculum. And the nonprofit organization is prepping for its biggest expansion yet, adding eight schools to its lineup for a total of 14 around the city of Chicago.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
When U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack delivered the keynote address at FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Festival & Conference March 24, he spoke three little words that are close to the hearts of the Chicago nonprofit organization and its community of like-minded advocates: Good Food movement.
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!
There are few more important avenues for ensuring continued progress toward a better U.S. food system than teaching children about healthy food produced sustainably, humanely and fairly. Pilot Light, a chef-driven nonprofit in Chicago, is one of the most promising and innovative programs addressing this priority. Paul Kahan, a co-founder of Pilot Light and FamilyFarmed’s 2016 Good Food Chef of the Year, discusses the program in this Q-and-A.
Can a rich dessert be considered Good Food? It can when it is Eli’s Cheesecake and its owner, Marc Schulman, is a strong supporter of the Good Food movement and makes the effort to source from local producers when it is possible to do so.
Anne Alonzo, administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service, says there is a lot of passion for sharing Good Food by supporting strong local and regional food systems — something she experienced firsthand during her trip last week to Chicago, where she spoke at the Good Food Festival & Conference presented by FamilyFarmed.
Would you like to hang out with and learn from some of Chicago’s best-known chefs? And have you ever wanted to be a kid again? You might, then, be a little jealous of the Chicago schoolchildren who get to participate in the chef-driven Pilot Light educational program.
Unlike a certain purple dinosaur, Chicago’s Purple Asparagus — a nonprofit group that uses fun and age-appropriate activities to teach kids about Good Food — is named for a real plant that is a springtime delicacy. That is kind of the point. Teaching children from very young ages about the benefits of real, whole, wholesome food is crucial to their developing healthy eating habits as they grow up, and that is the core of Purple Asparagus’ mission.
There are so many elements to the Good Food movement that it would be hard for any one event to capture its breadth. But “Trade Day” at FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Festival & Conference March 20 — comes as close as can be to a comprehensive overview of this sweeping effort to change the way we eat for the better.
Across our country, more and more schools have begun to source foods locally and to provide educational activities to students — a movement often called “farm to school.” Farm to school is growing, with major benefits for children, schools, families, farmers, food manufacturers, communities, and businesses.
Teens around the country have caused a buzz by tweeting photographs of unappetizing school lunches along with a sarcastic message: #ThanksMichelleObama. That hashtag attempts to put a negative spin on the very positive work Mrs. Obama has made her personal cause as first lady of the United States: to improve child nutrition, health, and fitness.