Communities all over state—and country—will gather on or around Friday, October 24, for Food Day, an annual celebration to help draw attention to food justice issues, such as access to healthy food and the treatment of farm and food workers. This year’s theme, “Real Food, Just Food,” will be the focus of an array of events, from food festivals to film screenings.
This is the fourth year that Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)—a nonprofit advocacy group educating consumers about nutrition, food safety and other health-related issues—has coordinated Food Day. U.S. Rep Rosa DeLauro (D-CT3) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA5) serve as honorary co-chairs of Food Day.
“Food Day events and activities are designed to foster honest discussion, deeper knowledge and progress toward addressing critical topics in food, agriculture and nutrition — spanning the food chain from farm families to family tables,” wrote DeLauro and Harkin in a column for The Huffington Post.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is inviting folks to the state house in Boston to learn about the new Massachusetts Food Systems Plan. New York City is hosting a citywide celebration called the Big Apple Crunch, where the community gathers at noon to bite into an apple.
Here in Connecticut, the Farmington Valley YMCA is holding a 7 p.m. screening Friday of the documentary Fed Up, about the health consequences of the confusing and misleading food industry.
After the film, there will be panel discussion including a farmer, food service director, teen sustainable food system advocates with From the Ground Up, Foodshare, and Tevonne Ellis, REACH Coordinator and CT Delegate to Food System New England and Connecticut Food System Alliance.
The West Hartford Elementary Schools and King Phillip Middle School will be holding student-run farmers’ markets, coordinated by community-based nonprofit Growing Great Schools, on Thursday, Oct. 23, from 3:20 p.m. to 4:20 p.m. Fresh, organic produce, as well as local honey and breads will be provided by George Hall Farm, High Hill Orchard, Oxen Hill Farm, Stonewall Apiary, Urban Oaks, Hartford Baking Company and La Petite France in West Hartford Center. Some schools will also feature a local chef, part of the Growing Great Schools’ Chef to School program.
“October is National Farm to School Month so student run farmers’ markets and Food Day activities are a natural fit to celebrate, while helping to teach children life-long lessons about healthy food and where it comes from,” Liz Isaacs, one of the chairs of Growing Great Schools’ Farm to School committee, said in a press release. “Kids are often more likely to try fresh fruits and vegetables when they learn about where they come from and their benefits. And when we buy from farms in our community we support the local economy.”
Growing Great Schools also made the commitment last year to donate $600 at each seasonal market toward food bags to be sent home with children of families in need. By doing so, the organization aims to help provide equal access to healthy food to all children in the district.
For Food Day on Friday, the Eat Real Challenge students have been participating in all week will conclude with a special salad bar featuring a cranberry orange quinoa and salad items from school gardens, served along with whole grain rolls and healthy soup from Hartford Baking Company.
“Students will…then report back on the smart choices they made during the week,” said Food Day Coordinator Melissa Cyr. “Maybe they ate a rainbow of veggies, checked labels for short ingredient lists or switched from chips to homemade popcorn. We want to get them thinking about making better choices.“
Rocky Hill High School students will hold their own, in-school farmers market for Food Day on Friday, from noon to 3:30 p.m. Students will give presentations on issues related to food justice, and they will participate in The Big Apple Crunch with apples donated from local farms. Local venders will sell products from local farms, and tables will be set up by public health department, Whole Foods, the local library and the school nurse and school cafeteria. The school jazz band will perform. The documentary Fed Up will show in the auditorium for students and staff to drop in and view. As it will be a school event, outside people may not attend.
Yale-New Haven Hospital also celebrates Food Day Friday morning until noon in the cafeteria. Collaborating with a local market, the hospital will have an informational display and local food tasting. The hospital is located at 20 York St. in New Haven.
“Food Day helps to focus attention on the practical steps that we all can take to enhance our nutrition and health. Changing dietary habits and tastes is not easy, even though the health benefits of doing so are obvious,” wrote DeLauro and Harkin.
Healthy and fresh food choices are unfortunately not as readily available in all geographic location for all income levels, which is where the congresswoman and senator feel public policy can play a great role. As a result, they strongly back policies the support the growth of farmers markets, farm-to-school programs and local food marketing. They also applaud the objectives of Food Day to promote better nutrition and increase access to safe and healthy food, as well as enhance opportunities for local farming communities to produce food, while conserving natural resources and protecting the environment.
“I hope people use Food Day as a time to try new things, to patronize new, local food businesses, and to support the work that so many activists and entrepreneurs are doing to improve the food environment in our communities,” Gail Simmons, Food & Wine’s special projects director and permanent judge on Bravo’s Top Chef, said in a Food Day press release. “We need the whole country to be engaged in the food movement, and Food Day is a way to help get us there.”
How You Can Get Involved
Do you want to get involved in Food Day 2014? Food Day offers these five ways to do so:
Here are five ways you can participate from wherever you are:
1. Attend a Food Day event — Check out the Food Day national map and plug in your zipcode to find details about Food Day events near you.
2. Join the #FoodDayChat Twitter Chat — 5 hours, 5 topics: Participate in the online conversation about food justice, public health, food policy, and more, with groups such as the American Public Health Association, Slow Food USA, Union of Concerned Scientists and James Beard Foundation. This online event is hosted by @FoodDay2014, noon-5pm ET on Oct. 24. Follow and use hashtag #FoodDayChat to participate.
3. Thunderclap — Register your social media account for the #FoodDay2014 Thunderclap to add your voice to support real and just food for all. The more people who sign up, the bigger the impact we can make!
4. Food Literacy Quiz — Share the Food Day Food Literacy Quiz and encourage your network to take it on Food Day.
5. #FoodDayPlate — Participate in the #FoodDayPlate contest on social media by sharing a photo of your healthy or sustainable meal on Food Day! Use hashtag #FoodDayPlate to participate.