Here’s some good food news: Civil Eats was just named the James Beard Foundation’s 2014 Publication of the Year! The Foundation’s Journalism Committee, said:
In judging its Publication of the Year, the Journalism Awards Committee of the James Beard Foundation recognizes a publication that demonstrates fresh direction, worthy ambition, and a forward-looking approach to food journalism. Civil Eats, through its declared passion for “promoting critical thought about sustainable agriculture and food systems,” practices the kind of thorough and fair journalism that helps us make sense of the increasingly complex matter of getting food to our tables.
It’s an incredible honor to receive this award, which acknowledges the spirit and soul of the collective work of our edgy, funky, community supported blog. On behalf of our hundreds of contributors, I am so grateful to the Foundation and the Journalism Committee for this remarkable recognition amongst our esteemed peers.
It is especially meaningful that the Foundation chose to elevate sustainability in food journalism and is placing high value on our unique vision of food reporting through a wider lens. Having made this site my labor of love for many years, and a true passion project, it is truly rewarding to know that we’ve reached a critical mass.
Six years ago, I was brought on to head up communications for Slow Food Nation (SFN), an event that was considered by many to be a watershed moment in the food movement. While crafting the SFN website, we placed a blog front and center, in order to garner more discussion and interest in the event. And it worked. By inviting and curating voices from across the food movement, we attracted nearly one million unique visitors to the site in just a few months.
Slow Food Nation was attended by upwards of 80,000 people and included a victory garden in front of San Francisco’s City Hall, a marketplace, and multiple discussion panels including luminaries such as Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Wes Jackson, Vandana Shiva, and Alice Waters. It planted a seed that has grown into today’s food movement, a full-fledged garden.
When the event ended, a few of us decided to keep the momentum going, including Editor-at-Large Paula Crossfield, who joined me to accept the award in New York City today. Thus sprang Civil Eats, which has produced thousands of stories by hundreds of contributors since 2009.
Our goal was simple: Create a platform to publish unreported stories from the voices on the frontlines of food politics; be inclusive and support the leading NGOs in the space and help them tell their stories; and stay ahead of and often break news. We did all that and much more for many years, without pay, and without being able to pay our contributors.
All of that changed when we launched our Kickstarter campaign last October. As our readers and supporters know, we successfully raised $100,000, the highest amount to date for content for an online daily news site via Kickstarter. With our new funds, we’ve since been able to bring on a new managing editor, Twilight Greenaway (who’s kicking ass) and have begun to pay our writers and contributors. Our goal is to be able to pay a full staff (including me!) and hire a Washington D.C.-based reporter to cover food policy on the ground.
The James Beard Foundation award for publication of the year proves that content-driven, in-depth dialogue on food systems issues matter. Civil Eats is a spark that ignited the food movement and this award is for everyone who believes that storytelling can transform the world. Thank you all for being such powerful advocates for critical thought and positive change in the food system.