We’re Going To Have To Get a Bigger Table: James Beard Foundation takes on Trust

By on October 26, 2012

We’re Going To Have To Get A Bigger Table

James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards

The Five James Beard Foundation Leadership Award Winners for 2012 agreed that to feed the world’s exploding population, we will need to fix our broken food system.

“We’re on the Titanic.  The band is playing.  Time is running out,” said Wendell Berry, 2012 winner.

Debra Eschmeyer, a farmer from the midwest concurred. “Our issue is bipartisan.  We need to go out into the world and plant, invest, teach and unite, in order to succeed.  Be both patient and urgent. Time is running out.”

The JBF Leadership awards, in a meeting held October 17-18 in the Hearst Tower in New York City, were a part of a two day conference for food professionals entitled:

A Crisis in Confidence: Creating a Better, More Sustainable Food World We Can Trust  and was co-hosted by Good Housekeeping.

Good Housekeeping, established in the late nineteenth century has served as a beacon for food safety standards from the beginning.  The James Beard Foundation, was founded in 1986 following Mr.Beard’s death by Julia Child, Peter Kump and other food luminaries to keep alive the great joie de vivre of Mr. Beard as well as his championship of American cuisine.

But the JBF foundation has lately turned serious and has mounted an effort to collect food professionals across party lines, with backgrounds not only in food service, but in government, non-profit and literary arts who can come together to influence public policy in a way that may quite literally, help save the world.

Simran Sethi, journalist and professor made a thoughtful presentation about trust. See it HERE“http://new.livestream.com/accounts/1700734/events/1610912/videos/4956781/player?autoPlay=false&height=360&mute=false&width=640″ width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no”></iframe>

The theme of the 2012 meeting examines trust in America’s food system, and through a series of round table discussions, presentations, and panels, participants raised some of the more difficult questions.

  • Can we trust science? What about GMO’s?
  • Do we “got too much milk?”
  • How can we build trust between food purveyor and consumer?
  • How transparent is our food system?
  • Is our food supply more or less safe today and where is it going?

If you would like to listen in on this two day conference via live-streaming, log onto


The winners of the 2012 James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards are:

Wendell Berry, 75, author of more than 40 books including Bringing it To The Table,  plus fiction, nonfiction and poetry, is a native of Kentucky who works from his hillside farm. He wrote in 2009, with Wes Jackson, “We need a 50-year farm bill that addresses forthrightly the problems of soil loss and degradation, toxic pollution, fossil-fuel dependency and the destruction of rural communities.”

Mr. Berry has been a writer and activist for nearly sixty years, tackling problems of the environment, the world’s survival, and the duties of those he considers stewards of the land, and that includes all of us.  There is no problem too large for Mr. Berry.  He believes we can and will change.  The James Beard Foundation honors him for a lifetime’s attention to our world.

Jason Clay, PhD,  of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) keeps his eye trained on commodities, and has done considerable work to improve the sustainability and supply chain management of them worldwide. With a PhD in Anthropology, Cornell, Mr. Clay has operated a family farm, taught at Harvard and Yale, worked with the US Department of Agriculture, helped create hundreds of products including Ben & Jerry’s Rainforest Crunch ice cream.

For 25 years he has worked with human rights and environmental organizations considering environmental impacts of foodstuffs including salmon, soy, sugarcane, and palm oil, as well as cotton. Author of more than 250 articles and 15 books on the environment, agriculture, aquaculture, poverty alleviation and corporate social responsibility.  Dr. Clay is honored by JBF for working with some of the world’s largest corporations to help preserve the planet.

Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture for the U.S.D.A. has worked to strengthen the connection between farmer and consumer. She established a program known as “Know Your Farmer”. Dr. Merrigan is known as the midwife to organic standards legislation that has standardized organic labeling throughout the country.  Dr. Merrigan says, “With only 1% of our population engaged in farming today, there is nothing more compelling to me than introducing the farming life to young Americans.  I want them to find farming a calling.”

Dr. Merrigan is involved in what she calls “the Good Food Movement” which begins on the farm and makes a short and sure leap to the table.

Tensie Whelan, President of the Rainforest Alliance has overseen the transformation of her organization into an internationally respected entity that helps transform land-use and business practices, and raises awareness to the consumer to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods.

Malik Yakini, executive director, The Detroit Black Community Food Security Network  is honored for his work to ensure social justice, food equity, and food security fo the people of urban Detroit. “I have been working for food justice for food marginalized people for 25 years.  I believe until we stop racism which creates inequity in the U.S. and around the world, we can never solve the world’s hunger problems,” says Mr. Yakini.

















About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”