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  • Writer's pictureTamanna Mohapatra

Teachings from a food conference

Updated: Apr 24, 2018

I believe Michael Pollan was the one who said food serves money purposes.  For satisfying hunger, to keep us healthy, part of nature’s sustainability, and last but not the least, it has socio-political and cultural implications.  And through my interest in food and food sustainability is how I cam to hear about the James Beard Foundation. Till about a year ago I had not even heard of the organization or the person named James Beard. And now I feel so familiar with both the name and the namesake foundation.

James Andrew Beard was an American cookbook author, teacher, food journalist and television personality. Beard taught and mentored generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts. His legacy lives on in twenty books, other writings and his foundation’s annual James Beard awards in a number of culinary genres. (src: wikipedia)

I was finally able to procure student priced (still expensive) tickets to the aforementioned annual conference. I was very excited and knew it would be amazing, have amazing food and people. And I was not disappointed. In fact I met a lot of inspiring people, heard plenty of inspiring stories. I think back on those two packed days of discussions, panels, Q&A and most of it seems a blur of too much food and too much talk but here are the topics I found most inspiring:

Allies for Health: Doctors and Chefs – A Dialogue (click on the link for a video recording)

Seamus Mullen, a chef and author of Hero Food spoke about how he used to be very unhealthy as a child and young adult. None of the doctors were looking at his nutrition as a guide to improving his health. It’s because doctors are seldom given nutritional training and taught the link between good food and good health.

Tim Harlan, a chef turned doctor from Tulane University in New Orleans started and runs the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine to provide this missing  link. Check out the site. It’s more than amazing.

Beyond Hospital Meals: Food and Healthcare Collaborations

This panel discussion was about how health insurance companies are giving monetary allowances to their customers to go buy healthy fruits and vegetables. They do that by partnering with organizations like Wholesome Wave, farmer’s markets and local hospitals as well.

Founded by a former chef, Wholesome Wave’s mission is to enable people in underserved urban and rural communities to make healthier food choices by increasing affordability and access to fresh, locally grown foods. Some of their initiatives are double value coupon program, Fruit and Vegetables Prescription Program (FVRx). This type of preventive policies were so inspiring, it made me feel very happy to learn about them and see them being practiced.

Sugar and Health: What is the Connection? – A Dialogue (click on the link for a video recording)

According to Dr. Lustig, who by the way is one of my food hero- ALL ailments can be explained by excessive sugar intake. His message is very simple and very powerful. Better health is achievable by limiting our sugar intake. There is just too much added sugar in all processed foods. Fruits are an exception because fruits come with fiber which slows the sugar intake in our body. Most Americans and for that matter, any world citizen is in danger if on a daily basis they take more than 6 -9 teaspoons of sugar a day is all the sugar any American should eat. That’s equivalent to 24 grams. Desert needs to have a place on the table but only for special and celebratory occasions, not as a daily vitamin pill.

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