Today celebrates the first annual national Food Day. I caught up with Lilia Smelkova to get the full scoop…
What is Food Day?
Food Day is a national grassroots campaign for healthy, affordable food produced in humane, sustainable and just way. Food Day is modeled after Earth Day, and will take place anually on October 24 with people across the country celebrating by organizing or attending events, big and small–on college campuses, at schools, in public parks, at farmers markets. Major themes include health, sustainable agriculture, cutting subsidies to agribusiness, and eradicating food deserts. Food Day aims to educate the general public, influence local and state food policies, and give a platform for diverse to dialogue and work together. But more important, Food Day aims to inspire Americans to change their diets for the better and start cooking for families again.
After months of organizing by countless people, there will be more than 2,000 events from coast to coast in 50 states on and around October 24. Local governments are seizing the opportunity to announce new food policy initiatives. The National Archives will be hosting a Food Day Open House, and there will be an “Eat In” in Times Square in New York, with guests Morgan Spurlock, Marion Nestle, and 50 other food leaders and community activists. You can learn more about Food Day priorities and look for events around the country here: www.foodday.org.
What is the significance of October 24th?
We wanted to select a date that would give some time for schools and campuses to organize activities, not too close to Earth Day, to give a possibility for organizers to participate and leave time to plan, and also be close to the World Food Day, one of our partners, celebrating with actions on world hunger issues and addressing domestic food access.
Dozens of school districts and hundreds of campuses are celebrating countrywide. Portland Public Schools will serve a special meal of locally-raised, grass-fed beef and unlimited fruits and vegetables for kids from 30,000 families. Every school in Denver will have a special Food Day menu. Schools in Boston, Boulder County, Los Angeles, and Detroit will celebrate as well. The Real Food Challenge has involved more than 200 college campuses in dinning hall events, teach-ins, conferences, picnics and more.
How did the Food Day folks settle on the 6 Food Day principles?
Food Day’s goal is nothing less than to transform the American diet—to inspire a broad movement involving people from every walk of life. In other words, we want America to eat real. The 6 Food Day principles were selected to give a broad umbrella, a platform for groups working on all aspects of food system to collaborate together, public health advocates, environmental activists and farm workers justice movement. We have based the selection on a survey made earlier this year when we asked thousands of respondents, including our advisory board members, what were the priorities that wanted to see addressed by Food Day.
Food Day’s 6 principles are:
What can our readers do today to participate in Food Day?
First of all, attend a Food Day event. If you haven’t found a Food Day event near you, visit FoodDay.org to search by our map or by typing in your zip code. (Be patient as events take time to load in the map—a lot of people are visiting right now!). Besides events in public places, Food Day events will take place at homes. For inspiration, we are offering a free Food Day recipe booklet featuring recipes from Mario Batali, Rick Bayless, Emeril Lagasse, Nina Simonds, and other renown chefs.
If you want to create your own Food Day event at home with family or friends, there is still time. We have a great dinner party kit collection of totally delicious recipes from celebrity chefs to get you started. If you want to raise money for a local food-related charity, you can enter a contest led by Epicurious.com—winning entries will get their donations matched up to $1,000! We even have tips for Halloween, and Food Day pumpkin carving stencils. We encourage everyone to sign the Food Day petition asking Congress for better food policies.
And of course you can keep up with Food Day by liking it on Facebook, following CSPI on Twitter, or by using the #FoodDay hashtag.
What can we expect from Food Day in the coming years?
Food Day will be October 24—this year and in years to come. Food Day aims to become for the Food Movement what Earth Day has been for the Environmental Movement, bringing food education into school curriculum, helping to improve diets, and giving the much needed support to sustainable agriculture. Food Day will inspire hundreds of thousands if not millions of Americans to change their diets for the better, and to push for improved food policies. Although with Food Day, actively making change – even for one day – can have a tremendous impact, we also see efforts on improving policies. Rhode Island and Montgomery County, Maryland are announcing the formation of the food policy councils on Food Day. In California, dozens of nonprofit organizations have come together to promote a petition campaign to generate support for a smarter Farm Bill.
Lilia Smelkova worked for Slow Food International in Italy for 10 years and initiated the Slow Food network in Eastern and Central Europe and Canada. She supervised international communications and directed the launch of an international education program that birthed the first European network of sustainable school cafeterias. She also worked on the core team that planned the first Terra Madre, a meeting of food communities from 150 countries. Lilia holds a BA from Minsk Linguistics University in Belarus (she is fluent in Italian, Russian, English, French, and Spanish), a Master’s in languages from Turin University in Italy, and a certificate in environmental management from UC Berkeley, where she co-authored a nutrition education study. She recently guided an expedition of Italian scientists along the Silk Road to research food preferences and genetics. She believes that food is among the best ways to experience the world, especially Uzbek pilaf, Pamir mountain mulberries, and Transylvanian jams.