Eating the Right Way | Civil Eats

Eating the Right Way

The Commonwealth Club’s special month-long “How We Eat” speaker series continued last Wednesday, August 6, with a panel presented in association with Slow Food Nation. The session—the first of three co-hosted by Slow Food Nation—brought together panelists Kevin Lunny, Owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Company; Jessica Prentice, author of Full Moon Feast and co-owner of Three Stone Hearth Community Supported Kitchen; and Helene York, Director of Bon Appetit Management Company Foundation, for a conversation about “Eating the Right Way.”  The discussion, moderated by Slow Food Nation Communications & Policy Director Naomi Starkman, took place in front of a full house at the Commonwealth Club.

The conversation began by simply asking each panelist what “eating the right way” means to them and how their individual work contributes to reaching this goal and ultimately educating consumers. All three emphasized that our eating habits affect not only our own bodies but also the environment, underscoring the need for all Americans to understand the critical connection between plate and planet. York began by recalling the famous words of Carlo Petrini, who said, “an environmentalist who is not a gastronomist is sad, but a gastronomist who is not an environmentalist is stupid.”

Petrini’s statement reinforces Bon Appetit’s own efforts to promote the connection between food and climate change. They are committed to looking at the origins of food from both an environmental and human perspective. As a food services company that provides meals for 80 million people per year in more than 400 cafes in 29 states, York notes that Bon Appetit has the power to affect food choices and a unique opportunity to educate guests. The company has joined forces with their chefs, making a commitment to sourcing food locally and, by extension, to getting guests engaged in the dining experience.

Lunny stressed that the way we eat can also be a solution to many of the environmental changes Americans are calling for. In fact, he said, healthy eating can help save the family farm, which is so vital to our economy, and can also reduce our carbon footprint and contribute to slowing the effects of climate change. Lunny talked about the impact of beef on America’s carbon footprint—the average hamburger in the U.S. travels over 1,500 miles from farm to plate. The transition back to a healthier grass fed cow would provide opportunities to sequester carbon emissions and reduce greenhouse gasses. To accomplish these types of benefits, it is critical to get this message out to the consumer, Lunny said.

Prentice discussed the importance of transformation across all levels of the food distribution cycle and her passion for reviving local eating traditions. As the creator of the term “locavore” and the Local Foods Wheel, her message echoes the call for consumer awareness of local food and seasonality. Prentice demonstrated the functionality of her Local Foods Wheel for attendees—a visual aid designed to educate food service professionals and consumers on what foods are grown locally and when they are in season.

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All three panelists addressed the affordability of food and the progress being made to facilitate greater access. Prentice pointed out that there is a perception issue at hand, as other items such as flat screen TVs, mobile devices, or designer shoes are much more expensive than healthy food, despite being non-essential. For Prentice, the long-term health benefits to eating real food are priceless and the “cheap food system” comes with a huge price tag both to humanity and our environment. Lunny pointed out several ways in which farmers were working to lower prices so that healthy, sustainable food can be enjoyed by everyone. York pointed out the wasteful habits of most Americans that result from the overabundance of cheap food, and suggested that there are more efficient ways to consume healthy food at affordable prices while conserving our precious resources.

Join us for the next panel at the Commonwealth Club in partnership with Slow Food Nation on Thursday, August 14. “The Centralization of Our Food System,” a panel discussion presented in association with Slow Food Nation, will explore how the American food system is shaped by centralization in production, consumption and economic cycles. Panelists include Don Shaffer, President and CEO, RSF Social Finance; Paul Frankel, Managing Director, Ecosa Capital; and Michael Dimock, President, Roots of Change. Discounted tickets for this panel are available for Slow Food members. For more information, check www.slowfoodnation.org/events/special-programming/commonwealth-club-panels. Programs often sell out, so we encourage you to purchase tickets in advance at commonwealthclub.org or call (415) 597-6705.

Photos courtesy of The Commonwealth Club

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Leigh Farris is the Communications Consultant for Slow Food Nation. She as formerly a Communications Director at CBS News. Read more >

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