As the James Beard Foundation (JBF) celebrates the 10th anniversary of its Chef Bootcamp, the U.S.-based organization continues to help restaurant industry leaders advocate for a better food system.
JBF works to celebrate American food culture while pushing for new and better standards in the restaurant industry to ensure everyone has the opportunity to thrive.
Founded in 2012, JBF’s Chef Bootcamp for Policy and Change was created to help chefs advocate for better policies in support of sustainable food systems. Clare Reichenbach, CEO of JBF, says that they now have a network of close to 400 “activist-minded” alumni who have gone through the program.
“Chefs have real agency and influence and voice,” Reichenbach tells Food Tank. “And we are in support of harnessing and facilitating [that community] to drive policy change.”
For years, chefs in JBF’s program advocated for changes including reducing antibiotic use in farm animals, greater support for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or changes to the Farm Bill.
When the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted restaurants, many alumni of the Bootcamp mobilized to support the industry. Putting their training to use, chefs and restaurant operators called on policymakers to provide funding and create policies to keep restaurants open.
Despite the significant challenges in recent years, Reichenbach says that there is at least one positive outcome that emerged. “Previously, what had been very disparate businesses and organizations [were] coming together as one and demonstrating the combined value of this group,” she tells Food Tank.
JBF’s sustainability efforts also help chefs adopt better sourcing practices. Through their Smart Catch Program, they are helping chefs serve seafood that is sourced more sustainably and communicate that decision with diners.
The Foundation has also worked with chefs to raise awareness around the importance of reducing food loss and food waste.
“The restaurant is the nexus for change around sustainability,” Reichenbach tells Food Tank. “And so many within our community — chefs, restaurateurs, operators — are personally incredibly motivated to use their own agency in support of a more sustainable food world and industry.”
Listen to the full conversation with Clare Reichenbach on “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” to hear about the future of a fragile hospitality industry, bringing greater transparency to restaurants, and the greatest challenges and opportunities for the James Beard Foundation in the years ahead.
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Photo courtesy of Sebastian Coman Photography, Unsplash