The James Beard Foundation recognizes leaders in sustainable food

Michelle Obama, Alice Waters among others receive an inaugural award that recognizes efforts to create a healthier, safer, and more sustainable food world.

By , Staff Writer

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    First lady Michelle Obama and American Indian children plant traditional crops in the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn of the White House, June 3, 2011.
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The James Beard Foundation, in efforts to recognize visionaries in the business, government and education sectors working to create a healthier, safer, and more sustainable food world, has named the recipients of its inaugural James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards.

The honorees – who range from urban agriculture heroes to tireless healthy school food pioneers – are Will Allen, Fedele Bauccio, Debra Eschmeyer, Sheri Flies, Jan Kees Vis, Fred Kirschenmann, First Lady Michelle Obama, Janet Poppendieck, Alice Waters, and Craig Watson.

The foundation, which is celebrating its 25th year, is showing a new focus beyond recognizing outstanding chefs with this inaugural award.

“Our foundation is widely known for recognizing the best chefs and restaurateurs in America through our annual James Beard Awards,” said Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation, in a press release. “Our new leadership awards shine the spotlight on game-changing pioneers who have inspired positive action to improve our country’s food system.”

According to the news release, honorees were chosen by an advisory board comprised of a dozen experts from diverse areas of expertise. The Leadership Awards recognize specific outstanding initiatives as well as bodies of work and lifetime achievement. Among the criteria used to select final honorees are excellence of work, innovation in approach and scale of impact within a community or the nation.

2011 James Beard Foundation Leadership Award Recipients

Will Allen, Founder and President, Rainbow Farmer’s Cooperative and Founder and CEO of Growing Power:
For his lifelong work as a farmer and community activist dedicated to supporting low-income and small family farmers who bring healthy, affordable food to urban areas.

Fedele Bauccio, CEO, Bon Appétit Management Company:
For his commitment to quality food and socially responsible food sourcing.

Debra Eschmeyer, Co-Founder and Program Director, FoodCorps:
For addressing the issues of childhood obesity and diet-related disease through school lunch programs with the National Farm to School Network and her leadership of FoodCorps’ innovative programming.

Sheri L. Flies, Assistant General Merchandise Manager, Corporate Foods, Costco Wholesale Corporation:
For her work on the Juan Francisco Project, which assessed the sustainability of the existing supply chain for French beans in Guatemala and determined how it affects the lives of farmers and their families, and for playing a key role in Costco’s efforts to integrate sustainable practices in its buying decisions.

Jan Kees Vis, Global Director, Sustainable Sourcing Development, Unilever:
For his work in creating the Sustainable Living Plan at Unilever with clear goals of reducing waste, water use, and GHG emissions by 50 percent and achieving 100 percent sustainable sourcing by 2020, and for his industry-wide leadership in the Palm Oil Roundtable.

Fred Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University and President of the Board of Directors, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture:
For his lifelong work on sustainable food and farming systems.

First Lady Michelle Obama:
For launching Let’s Move!, a comprehensive initiative dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation.

Janet Poppendieck, Author and Professor of Sociology at Hunter College, City University of New York, and at the CUNY Graduate Center:
For bringing issues of poverty, hunger, and food assistance to the forefront through her teaching and books, such as "Sweet Charity? Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement and Free For All: Fixing School Food in America."

Alice Waters, Chef, Author, and the Proprietor of Chez Panisse:
For her pioneering use of sustainable and local ingredients in food service and for the Chez Panisse Foundation’s work in creating the Edible Schoolyard program.

Craig Watson, Vice President of Sustainable Agriculture, Sysco Corporation:
For his work to improve sustainable agriculture and integrated pest management (IPM) practices for Sysco’s food products; programs that have impacted over 921,000 acres of agriculture land.

The inaugural cohort of recipients of the Leadership Awards will be honored on October 12 at a ceremony and dinner prepared by James Beard Award-winning chefs Michel Nischan and Anne Quatrano during the second annual James Beard Foundation Food Conference at the Hearst Tower in New York City.

More about the James Beard Foundation

Founded in 1986, the James Beard Foundation is dedicated to celebrating, nurturing, and preserving America's diverse culinary heritage and future. A cookbook author and teacher with an encyclopedic knowledge about food, James Beard, who died in 1985, was a champion of American cuisine. He helped educate and mentor generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts. Today, the Beard Foundation continues in the same spirit by administering a number of diverse programs that include educational initiatives, food industry awards, scholarships to culinary schools, and publications, and by maintaining the historic James Beard House in New York City’s Greenwich Village as a “performance space” for visiting chefs.

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