On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” chef, restaurateur, and advocate Spike Mendelsohn talks about the food issues that motivate him to create thoughtful partnerships and heal the food system. “Food should be treated as a right and not a privilege… We really need to have access to better, more nutritious foods in low income communities. We need to have better education about food, we need to support our farmers, and we need to revive farming! It can’t be one big issue: its the sum of a lot of little issues,” says Mendelsohn.
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Inspired by issues like nutrition and brand transparency, Mendelsohn will open up Vim and Victor, a restaurant located in a new sports complex in Springfield, VA. Partnering with Unilever’s Make Meals that Do More campaign, Mendelsohn will serve up Unilever products that are healthy for customers and the planet. “I am looking for the brands that are being thoughtful and know that they have to change and they have to keep up with the times, and you’re seeing this across the board with brands: its very important for them,” says Mendelsohn. “Associate yourself with brands that are aligned with your philosophy on food.”
According to Mendelsohn, his philosophy starts with the communities living in food deserts that need better access to healthy, fresh food. While he appeared on Top Chef, hosted Food network’s Kitchen Sink, and leads restaurants like Good Stuff Eatery and We, The Pizza, Mendelsohn believes chefs should do more to engage with their communities. “Chefs are more important than ever, and their voices are more important than ever. For them to be involved with the community, to act as ambassadors and advocates for better food policy across the nation… that job is on our shoulders,” says Mendelsohn.
As Chair of the D.C. Food Policy Council, Mendelsohn is advocating for partnerships across residents, advocates, chefs, and the government for community-focused food policies. “What this food policy council has done is brought everybody under this legislative umbrella to share their opinions and their thoughts, have open forums, and have meetings on a monthly basis,” says Mendelsohn. “The local food policy councils are very important because every region is different. Every resolve is different. You can’t standardize everything… and hope that it applies to every single region, everywhere: it’s just not how it works. That’s really what needs to change.”
The future looks even brighter for food policy, says Mendelsohn, as the next generation starts to take the reins in policy making and advocacy spheres. “These are the human beings who’ll make an impactful change… that’s who we really need to depend on. That is the future right now. They are onto something.”
Photo courtesy of Spike Mendelsohn.