When I first received the email from the James Beard Foundation about participating in this training, I looked over my shoulders and back at the screen a few times before reading on. Who? Me? But as I read, I learned that the training was to educate and mobilize STL tastemakers to take direct action and join Saint Louis’ fight against hunger.
Chefs, brewers, chocolatiers, and tea makers (that’s us!) were met with a day of conversation and truth-telling about the real state of hunger in Saint Louis and beyond. First we heard from Melissa Vatterott, Food & Farm Director for Missouri Coalition for the Environment, and Rhonda Smythe of Missouri Foundation for Health. Their presentations set the tone and made clear that hunger and food insecurity affect a disproportionate amount of Saint Louis’ young people — shit is serious. I listened and listened and listened some more.
Then there was the panel discussion Power of Local Food Community to Address Food, with:
Nicole Hudson, Deputy Mayor for Racial Equity & Priority Initiatives, City of St. Louis
Gibron Jones, Executive Director, HOSCO Foods
Lucinda Perry, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Operation Food Search
Lucas Signorelli, St. Louis MetroMarket
These folks, and so many more, have dedicated their lives to making food accessible to all communities in our city. After a day of listening, we began to talk — what can we do to help? And yeah, when you get a group of food entrepreneurs in a room, consensus is nearly impossible. But we all agreed, yes, let’s do something. It’s too easy to get siloed in your kitchen, but if we all work together, maybe achieving real change is a thing that we can do and not just say.
I look forward to reporting more on action that comes out of this eye-opening training and activation opportunity hosted by the James Beard Foundation. Also, neat that this invitation intersected my current career in tea with my past professional life, working in homeless youth services.