More than a dozen chefs from around the country will convene for the James Beard Foundation (JBF)’s fifth Chefs Boot Camp for Policy & Change at 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville, Arkansas, from Sept. 7-9, for a multi-faceted program that will teach policy and advocacy skills through the lens of access and affordability of food. 

The three-day intensive series of workshops, conducted in partnership with the Chef Action Network (CAN), and with support from the Osprey Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and JBF board member Eric Kessler, is designed to provide chefs with the tools they need to be effective advocates for food-system issues they believe in.

"We look forward to continuing the relationship we forged almost two years ago with Downtown Bentonville Inc. to bring attention to its vibrant food scene, as well as to mutually supporting the innovative work of their local chef community and our Foundation,” says Kris Moon, senior director, strategy and development, of the James Beard Foundation. “What started as a partnership to increase membership for both nonprofits has blossomed into numerous joint programs, including this Boot Camp. We are also thrilled to be working with 21c Museum Hotels again, who hosted our May 2013 Boot Camp at their flagship Louisville property.”

The upcoming Chefs Boot Camp for Policy & Change will immerse participating chefs in sessions including:

  • Creating a Fair, Just, Sustainable, Nutritious, and Delicious Food System:  Topics include an introduction to the public policy landscape and why policy matters.
  • Why Chefs Matter: Examples include chef advocacy work with programs like the PEW Charitable Trusts campaign to phase out antibiotics overuse in animal production; Catch Shares, a method of managing fisheries to make them sustainable and to restore fish populations; and hunger and childhood nutrition initiatives.
  • Policy Briefing on Access and Affordability: Discuss the importance of and how to impact policy.
  • A is for Advocacy: How advocacy campaigns work; why we need them; how to build them.

The intensive program will also feature content expertise from K. Rashid Nuri, one of the country’s foremost minds on urban farming; a visit to Ewe Bet Farms, a lamb farm in Cave Springs, Arkansas; and a tour of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which has an impressive collection of American masterworks spanning five centuries, ranging from the Colonial era to the current day.

“Since its inception at the first Boot Camp, the mission of the Chef Action Network, as well as the James Beard Foundation, has been to harness the passion chefs have to create positive change in the food system, not only for our generation but for generations to come,” said Katherine Miller, Executive Director of Chef Action Network.

Participating chefs for this Boot Camp include:

  • Hugh Acheson, Atlanta
  • Ashley Christensen, Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Erika Davis, Atlanta, GA & Nassau, Bahamas
  • Case Dighero, Bentonville, Arkansas
  • Scott Drewno, Washington, D.C.
  • Dan Kluger, New York City
  • Anthony Lamas, Louisville, Kentucky
  • Jordan Lloyd, Easton, Maryland
  • Bill Lyle, Bentonville, Arkansas
  • Matt McClure, Bentonville, Arkansas
  • Thomas McNaughton, San Francisco
  • Rob Nelson, Bentonville, Arkansas
  • Holly Smith, Seattle 
  • Ana Sortun, Boston
  • Digby Stridiron, Christiansted, U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Eric Wadlund, Palm Springs, California

The Chefs Boot Camp for Policy & Change, which was launched at the James Beard Award-winning Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee, in July 2012, is conducted under the direction of JBF Award–winning chef and founder of Wholesome Wave, Michel Nischan, and James Beard Foundation trustee and founder of Arabella Advisors, Eric Kessler. 

At each Boot Camp, chefs receive policy and advocacy training from industry and political experts through the lens of a specific food-system topic. Each session includes classroom work, mock interviews, hands-on activities that engage the chefs with local natural resources, a collaborative dinner cooked by the attendees, and strategic brainstorming about effective action points and next steps.

The 360-degree approach to educating and activating these powerful change makers on important food issues is made possible through CAN’s continuous support services for Boot Camp alumni, including campaign development, speech writing, media skills and training, policy research, and preparation for visits with policy makers and other leaders, as well as ongoing regional policy salons. To date, more than 50 chefs have taken part in the Boot Camp program.

The Chefs Boot Camp for Policy & Change is part of the James Beard Foundation's broader program to encourage dialogue between diverse stakeholders in the food system while providing an opportunity for chefs to help influence food decisions for the larger American population. 

Other programs include conducting a national dialogue on food-system issues at regional salons in cities around the country; the annual JBF Food Conference, which brings together a diverse group of food-system thought-leaders; and the annual Leadership Awards, which recognize visionaries helping to create a more healthful, sustainable, and safe food world.

More than 480 chefs have applied to the Chefs Boot Camp for Policy & Change program since it launched. Participants are selected to represent regional and topic interest diversity, with consideration given to the voice that each chef has within their local community and on a national level.

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