What Goes Into Creating Food Security: A Mix Of Chef, Activist and Humanitarian
Few, if any, understand the importance of food better than a chef. For that reason, chefs have a unique part to play in making the global food system more environmentally sustainable, nutritious, and socially just.
Here are famous – and not-so-famous – chefs from around the world who are making a difference to help improve nutrition and reduce food insecurity.
Anthony Bourdain –
The late Anthony Bourdain’s influence on the culinary world cannot be overestimated. He didn’t just introduce millions to new foods — he introduced us to new ways of thinking about food, and how it ties us all together. Bourdain's legacy is an ever-present reminder about the importance of breaking bread with others. As he famously stated, “You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.”
While he never considered himself an activist, he produced, narrated and starred in a documentary called “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste,” which premiered at the 2017 Tribeca film festival.
The documentary divulges how 40% of the food humans produce gets thrown out, the environmental ramifications of this waste, and how people can intervene.
“Food waste is something that I’ve always had to be conscious of as a professional. I’ve also spent the last 15 to 17 years traveling the world and seeing where all that wasted food we generate in the West could go to feed people” he said.
2) Jose Andres –
Spanish-American Chef José Andrés’ non-profit, World Central Kitchen, is devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters. The nonprofit stands up field kitchens to feed thousands of people fresh, nourishing, often hot meals as soon as possible at the scene of a hurricane, earthquake, tornado or flood.
The organization made international headlines in 2017 for preparing over 3.6 million meals for residents of Puerto Rico in the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria. The organization has launched feeding missions in 13 countries, serving some 15 million meals and corralling more than 45,000 volunteers. Andrés was nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
In the past year, the Michelin-starred chef has been finding ways to support communities in need throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He closed eight of his renowned New York City and Washington, D.C. restaurants to run gourmet soup kitchens for people who are struggling with food insecurity and has provided an estimated 35 million meals since.
Massimo Bottura –
Italian Michelin star restauranteur Massimo Bottura is one of the finest chefs in the world but his greatest achievement is giving back to less fortunate communities through his Food For Soul foundation.
In cooperation with Pope Francis, he turned an abandoned theatre in a Milan suburb into Refettorio, a soup kitchen that has turned more than 15 tons of excess food into meals for the homeless, working poor, and refugees.
With projects already opened in Milan, Rio de Janeiro, Modena, Bologna, London, Paris, Naples, Mérida, and North America, Food for Soul continues to work toward its mission in partnership with organizations all over the world. It’s latest addition is set to open in Montreal.
Alice Waters –
Chef, author and activist, Alice Waters is the founder of Chez Panisse one of the hippest cafes in Berkeley, California. She’s been a champion for sustainable food movements for decades.
In 1995, she launched the Edible Schoolyard Project, a program with the aim to transform the health and academic experience of students in America by training educators how to use kitchens and gardens as interactive classrooms, and advocating for a sustainable, delicious, and free lunch for every student. Two-and-a-half decades on, the organization has partnered with more than 5,600 schools around the world.
As Edible Schoolyard Project launched into its 25th year in 2020, Waters and the organization’s next mission is to help Americans eat their way out of climate change.
Dan Barber –
Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of critically acclaimed Blue Hill at Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, is one of the leading voices for increased sustainability in restaurants and an advocate for sustainable agriculture. He’s been praised as a “philosopher chef” for his advocacy on the “farm-to-table” movement. Barber wants restaurants to increase efficiency and cut down on food waste (not to mention improve taste) by growing their own ingredients.
Barber has recently stepped away from running his restaurant to focus on a nonprofit chef-in-residence program to provide a showcase for chefs who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.
6) The Roca Brothers –
Internationally acclaimed chefs and Goodwill ambassadors of the United Nations Development Fund, Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca, from Spain, have been at the forefront of the global campaign to raise public awareness of goals that seek to eliminate hunger, unemployment, climate change, and inequality. The brothers focus their efforts on questions of food security and advocate for a food chain that is not only sustainable, but inclusive.
The brothers are also involved with the establishment of training centres in a number of developing countries to help local communities combat waste, improve market conditions, and promote small businesses, particularly farmers who are often left out of the food equation altogether.
Ann Cooper –
Known as the Renegade Lunch Lady, chef Ann Cooper has worked as an advocate for feeding children better school lunches. She has succeeded in bringing fresh, local food into school lunch systems in California and promotes the return to cooking from scratch in school cafeterias through her Chef Ann Foundation.
Its first project was The Lunchbox, an online resource to help cafeteria staff transition to scratch cooking. Then, she started Salad Bars to Schools, which has since raised more than $14 million to provide 250 schools across the US with a salad bar in their cafeteria.
Plus, Our Own Chris Benson and Tom Smith –
Cooks Chris Benson and Tom Smith joined Haven Toronto during a critical time for the organization. During a global pandemic, with the number of clients seeking meals increasing each day, Chris and Tom rose to the occasion to deliver healthy and delicious meals for those in need.
Last year, 81,000+ meals were prepared and distributed by Chris and Tom compared to 49,000+ the year prior. Breakfast service, alone, was up 145 percent. Food costs are up 442 percent.
Chris, a former restaurant owner, and Tom, a Red Seal Chef, both have a wealth of experience that enable them to keep up with the growing demand. While quantities are always high at Haven Toronto, Chris and Tom also strive to ensure that quality is never sacrificed.