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Behind the Plate

Behind the Plate


June 20, 2016


Emily Broad Leib is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and the Director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC). #NoFoodWaste is a significant piece of her life’s work.

How do you define good food?
To me, good food is less about an individual food project and more about the ethos by which we produce, distribute, sell, and recycle all of our food. Food should be produced in ways that internalize rather than externalize costs so that it is more sustainably raised; it should be produced in ways that do not disproportionately burden certain sectors of society; it should be as healthy and safe as possible; and it should be affordable and accessible to all sectors of society.

You wear many hats—tell us a little about what it is that you do.
I direct the Food Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School, which means that I teach law students about the major issues in food law and policy both in the classroom and via hands-on projects for clients and communities. Our work focuses on increasing access to healthy foods, assisting small and sustainable food producers in breaking into new commercial markets, and reducing the waste of healthy, wholesome food.

In addition to food waste, right now we’re working on supporting the legal and policy needs of food policy councils in cities and states around the country; striving to improve access to and quality of food in schools; identifying opportunities to provide healthy food to those diagnosed with a diet-related disease through our food is medicine work (partnering with our colleagues at the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation); and supporting sustainable food production.

In all of these areas, we are bringing legal and policy expertise to help figure out ways to make the food system healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable.

How did you start working on climate change and food waste reduction?
In law school, my main focus was human rights. After law school, I took a fellowship in the Mississippi Delta doing community organizing and community development around health and economic opportunity. While there, I learned how issues like food access and food production impact grassroots communities, and how law and policy have a major role to play in these issues. I realized that food is closely linked to two of the major social issues facing this country—health and climate change—and that there is much work to do.

After working in various food policy issues for several years, my work in food waste reduction began from a project we conducted on behalf of Doug Rauch and the Daily Table. Through our work for Doug, we began looking at the laws in Massachusetts around date labels on food. When we zoomed out from Massachusetts to see what surrounding states were doing, we identified a dizzying array of state laws on date labels, many of which restrict sale or donation of past-date foods for no good reason. We found that there are many areas where law and policy play a role in driving increased food waste, or in preventing the recovery of safe and edible food.

Last year you were awarded funding under Harvard President Drew Faust’s Climate Change Solutions Fund.
Yes, my project “Reducing Food Waste as a Key to Addressing Climate Change,” confronts the challenge of climate change using the levers of law, policy, and economics, as well as public health and science. This support has helped us to build and expand our work in this area, which has only grown as we have come to learn about the major challenges posed by food waste, and the ways that law and policy can have an impact on this societal issue.

Tell us about your work with date labeling.
Our work on date labels began with the research we conducted for the Daily Table, helping them to better understand federal and state laws about whether and how past-date food can be sold or donated. After seeing how widely state date label laws vary, we were convinced that these state laws were not based in science or sound public policy. We teamed up with the Natural Resources Defense Council to conduct a more detailed national study on this issue, and in September 2013, we co-published The Dating Game, which analyzed the laws regarding expiration dates and explained how these unclear and unregulated labels contribute to an alarming amount of unnecessary food waste.

In the past few years, we’ve worked to raise awareness about this issue and to conduct additional research to help policy change to make date labels more uniform, clear, and coherent. For example, earlier this year, we release a short film entitled EXPIRED: Food Waste in America and have worked to help raise awareness at events and conferences nationally.

Last month, we released the findings of a national survey, conducted earlier this year with Johns Hopkins Center for Livable Future and National Consumers League, which found that many consumers throw away past-date food because of safety fears. We found one-third of consumers always throw food away after the date, and 84% do so at least occasionally. One-third of consumers also believe these dates are regulated by the federal government, which is inaccurate (currently, only date labels on infant formula are federally regulated). An average household of four waste $1,560 – $2,275 annually, and much of this is because of confusion over date labels. That’s money and food that doesn’t need to go down the drain!

What’s the latest date labeling news?
The introduction of the Food Date Labeling Act by Senator Richard Blumenthal and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree in mid-May is a fantastic development, because this legislation helps to create coherent, standardized date label language by simplifying date labels to two well-defined options: a quality date, indicated by “best if used by” and, for the very few foods where it’s applicable, a safety date indicated by “expires on.” If the bill does pass, it will be a big deal, because people may be more likely to take these labels seriously if they are clearer about what they mean, and are mandated by the federal government. Of course, we will need some serious consumer education to make this work, but the legislation also requires the FDA and USDA to help educate consumers so they can make better decisions about their food moving forward.

Do you think that food waste is the largest issue currently surrounding our food system?
I do think food waste is one of the biggest issues. It presents a grave threat to our economy, our health, and our environment. The good news is that addressing food waste has the potential to positively impact all of these areas. The NRDC estimates that redistributing just 30 percent of all the food lost in the United States could feed every food-insecure American their total diet. And reducing food waste can play a major role in reducing negative impacts on our environment and our climate. All the issues in our food system are amplified when we waste so much food. For example, food production requires the use of many natural resources, like water and land, and all of these are overused when we throw away 40% of the food we produce. Issues like antibiotic resistance, pesticide use, and fertilizer runoff are also amplified by the amount of food that we throw away.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If the future President were to consider food waste solutions, how should they be addressed?
Obviously I think that addressing food waste is very important. But I think this should be something that is considered as part of a comprehensive review of our food system. We are working on another project that is examining this concept—“Blueprint for a National Food Strategy,” that we are conducting in partnership with the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School. Many of the agencies and authorities regulating our food system are not aligned, and often tradeoffs are made without a critical look at the best outcomes for sustainability, health, equity, and the economy. Our project takes an in-depth look at the benefits and critiques of a national food strategy, the legal mechanisms that could be employed to develop such a strategy, and the means by which stakeholder engagement could ensure that such a strategy is effective and inclusive. Our research is looking at other countries that have developed national food strategies, and also examining national strategies that the U.S. government has created for other issue areas, such as HIV/AIDS, Environmental Justice, and Health Quality.

There are a lot of opportunities to improve the U.S. food system, and using a coordinated strategy could help us identify the overarching goals for our food system and the strategies to achieve those goals, while streamlining the work of all agencies that are creating food policies often in tension with one another.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
In addition to loving the work that we do for communities around the country by helping them to understand and better utilize the legal system to affect change in their food policies, I like helping people to understand the role that law and lawyers play in the food movement, and getting people to see us as a resource.

What are you working on right now?
Right now, FLPC is working to create a cohort of food lawyers and food advocates across the country. One aspect of this work has involved creating a network of faculty and law schools interested in food law, which launched this year called the Academy of Food Law and Policy. Last year we held the first Food Law Student Leadership Summit at Harvard Law School, and brought together 100 law students coming from 50 law schools in 30 states. We will be holding the second Summit this fall, at Drake Law School in Des Moines, Iowa. We’ve also identified student leaders and helped them launch the Food Law Student Network earlier this month. Being able to engage with students at Harvard Law School and across the country is incredibly rewarding and helps us to educate and empower the next generation of leaders in food law and policy.


What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
I grew up in a food-loving household and have always lived to eat (rather than eating to live). In my mother’s family, a lot of our family traditions are passed down through the food that my mother (and her mother, and her mother’s mother) cook. It’s hard to think of just one food memory, when food is tied to most of my childhood memories.

If you could get the general population to change one aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
I would really encourage people to stop relying on expiration, sell-by, and best-by dates. Trust your eyes and nose to tell you when something has gone wrong, rather than the arbitrary date on the package. At least until the Date Labeling Act has been passed! And beyond that, make responsible decisions about what you do with food past its peak—there are lots of ways to better store, cook, and prepare food so that you don’t have to throw it away. We are all contributing to the problem of food waste—45% of the food wasted in the U.S. happens in consumers’ homes.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I think I would own a bookstore. When I was little I always thought I would be a writer and operate a bookstore. Sadly these days bookstores are not that successful because of e-books, so I don’t think it is a good retirement plan, but it is nice to imagine being surrounded by books all day and having the time to read them all!

We are in the middle of our second #NoFoodWaste campaign. What are some #NoFoodWaste practices that you incorporate into your daily life?
I try to order smaller portions so I can make sure to finish my meals, and always take food to go if there are leftovers.

What’s always in your fridge? How do you use it?
Parmesan cheese—I put it on lots of things, like in my eggs in the morning, and on top of avocado toast.

Tell us about the Reduce and Recover event coming up at Harvard.
On June 28th and 29th, food recovery entrepreneurs, farmers, academics, students, enthusiasts and many more will converge at Harvard Law School for learning, strategizing, and networking to address the growing issue of food waste. I’m really excited for FLPC to be partnering with EPA, Mass DEP, and RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts to host the conference.

Reduce and Recover will focus on the top two tiers of EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy: “source reduction” and “feed hungry people” to highlight innovative solutions from across the nation to reduce food waste and recover more edible food for people. In September 2015, the USDA and EPA set the first-ever national food waste reduction goal aiming to reduce food waste 50% by 2030. We look forward to using this conference as a way to elevate the discussion and help the EPA and our national partners identify the key steps in terms of policy, innovation, and public awareness that need to be taken to achieve this important goal.

The conference is just about sold out at this point, but if you can’t make it, you can follow along on Twitter using #SaveFood4People or by viewing FLPC’s Twitter feed during the conference. Plus, we’ll release video of all conference sessions soon after the 29th on our website.

What was your biggest #foodfail?
My mother always used to make delicious whole artichokes topped with parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs that you peel and dip into melted butter. I’ve tried to make them a few times but they have always turned out to be completely inedible. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong! Even though I’m intimately involved in the food system, my husband is actually the main cook in our household. He is calm and collected in the kitchen, loves experimenting with new dishes, and finds that cooking helps him to relax at the end of a long day. So luckily I don’t have to have many food fails because he is such a pro!

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? And where?
This is by far the hardest question. There are so many people who have inspired me to do the work that I do. I guess I’ll go with my early inspiration—in my young days, I was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, who was curious and creative, and when he saw problems or things that confused him, he set about trying to fix them or invent new tools. I would say on a farm in Italy.

What’s your go-to breakfast?
We love making personal egg frittatas. Cook them in muffin tins over the weekend and then pop them in the oven or microwave in the morning during the week. We include eggs, cheese, cream, and veggies like tomato, mushrooms, or spinach.

What’s your favorite indulgent treat?
I’m a sucker for any dark chocolate!

Your good food wish?
That we find a way to meet the elements of my good food definition.

Behind the Plate


June 13, 2016


Keith Carr, City Harvest‘s Healthy Neighborhoods Manager, takes #NoFoodWaste to a whole new level. Not only does he rescue food that would otherwise go to waste, but he gets it to those who need it most.

Please tell us about City Harvest.
Founded in 1982 here in NYC, we were the world’s first (and NYC’s only) food rescue organization. City Harvest is dedicated to helping feed the nearly 1.4 million New Yorkers facing hunger. This year City Harvest will collect 55 million pounds of excess food that would otherwise go to waste from restaurants, grocers, bakeries, manufacturers, greenmarkets and farms, and deliver it free of charge to 500 community food programs across the city.

Donating food can often be difficult due to policy and legal restrictions. How are you able to rescue so much food?
We follow local and national food safety guidelines to ensure donated food is delivered in a safe condition and our donors are protected from liability under Federal and NY State Good Samaritan Laws. We train all recipient agencies in safe food preparation and handling, and agency kitchens are evaluated for their food safety practices. We have a fleet of 22 refrigerated trucks on the road visiting about 2,000 food donors.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Hearing someone at our Mobile Market say that they’ve lost weight, or their diabetes has improved because they use the recipes we provide. Visiting a bodega or supermarket and hearing a customer express how happy they are with the store since we did one of our “produce makeovers”—that the store has more variety and better quality fruits and vegetables. Taking seniors on a farmers’ market tour and seeing the looks on their faces when they try an heirloom tomato for the first time, and then giving them some Health Bucks to buy some to take home.

We are in the midst of our second #NoFoodWaste campaign. #NoFoodWaste is at the core of your business, but what low waste practices do you use at home?
Well, thanks to the NYC Compost Project I have a compost drop off site on my block. I’ve also started doing things my mom and grandmother taught us—blanching veggies and freezing them, and freezing meat.  I also try to “re-purpose” leftovers and get creative by using them in something else—soups are a great “melting pot.”

How do you define good food?
Good food is fresh. Good food is local. Good food is not processed. Good food should be affordable to everyone!

The work that you do has a tremendous positive impact on our people and our environment. Who/what is your inspiration?
Our dad was a community leader, heavily involved in community and economic development in Hartford, CT, where I’m from. He was also involved in local politics, and in his younger days helped organize migrant farm workers. Our mom was also civically engaged and was always involved in service projects through organizations that she belonged to. So, I guess I can credit the community service gene, honestly.

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
My grandparents had a farm in Northeastern Connecticut, where I’d spend my summers as a child. We grew everything from collards and swiss chard to heirloom tomatoes, Kentucky Wonder string beans and Silver Queen corn. We hunted and fished as well. My grandmother was pretty much a gourmet cook, so you can imagine meals were special, especially Thanksgiving. I remember one year the table had venison, rabbit, collards, sweet potatoes, turnips and of course, turkey. There was sweet potato and blueberry pie on deck. I had a “moment” as I looked around at the table and realized that everything on the table came from our land and it tasted soooo good.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If the future President were to consider food waste solutions, how should they be addressed?
I could go on and on about the Farm Bill but… Doug Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe’s, has launched a business called Daily Table. It’s basically a grocery store stocked with rescued food, and customers pay what they can. It removes the stigma of the pantry line and adds dignity to the experience while creating jobs for folks in the community and reducing food waste. So, I’d say to the would-be President, “Fund things like this.”

If you could get the general population to change one aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?


What’s always in your fridge?
I love salads so there’s always some baby spinach or spring mix and Annie’s dressing.

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? And where?
One of my favorite songs is “Dem Belly Full.” It completely defines City Harvest’s work, so I’d say Bob Marley. I imagine we’re in Jamaica, sitting on his porch. Sun is shining, weather is sweet… And we discuss world politics and revolution over ackees and saltfish, or maybe a roasted red snapper with some rice and peas and callaloo. And, some Appleton Estate to wash it down, of course.

What has been the hardest moment of your job?
Seeing supermarkets that we have worked with close and be torn down to make way for real estate development projects.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I love music. I sing, and used to play the bass. I’ve also produced concerts and events. So, I could see myself in the music industry in some aspect—not onstage, but behind the scenes. However I do have a recurring dream that I’m on stage with the Rolling Stones…

What’s your favorite meal?
I love one pot meals, so I’d say Rainbow chard with Italian turkey sausage, garlic, onions and peppers.

What is the Healthy Neighborhoods program?
Our Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative is designed to improve healthy food access and knowledge in five neighborhoods within New York City that have a high rate of diet related disease, high poverty, high population density and low access to healthy food options. We work directly with residents, supermarkets and bodegas, and community stakeholders to relieve food insecurity; build nutritional knowledge at the individual, family, and community level; and increase the access to affordable, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Talk about partnering community gardens and pantries.
Community gardens are an overlooked and underutilized source for free or really low-cost, fresh, local produce. And many of them grow more food than their members can use themselves or give away. So much of what they grow just goes to waste. Some of our partner pantries like the Brooklyn Rescue Mission, NEBHDCo and the Bed Stuy Campaign Against Hunger are growing their own food to supplement what they get from us and other sources. Imagine if community gardens would “adopt” a local pantry and donate to them, or dedicate a couple of growing beds for a pantry. They could feed a lot of folks!

What can we do to help City Harvest?
If you’re a restaurant or other food biz, give our Food Sourcing folks a call. If we can’t pick up your food, we’ll try to connect you to a nearby pantry. As an individual, become a volunteer. We literally could not do what we do without volunteers—from food rescues at a Greenmarket to doing a repack at our Food Rescue Facility, or helping to bag and distribute produce at one of our nine Mobile Market locations. Or helping to facilitate a nutrition ed course or cooking demo, we need you.  And, I know it sounds cliché, but every penny counts so, donate.

Your good food wish?
I wish everyone had access to good, fresh, affordable food.

Behind the Plate


June 6, 2016


Dana Gunders is a Senior Scientist at the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) whose work to rescue food waste has been featured by CNN, NBC, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, NPR, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and many more. She is also the author of the Waste Free Kitchen Handbook, the ultimate food waste-reduction tool for the home cook.

Please tell us about your job at the NRDC.
These days, my focus is on reducing the amount of food that goes to waste across the country. I look at it from the highest level and then try to push on levers that could make a difference. So, in the last year, I’ve written a consumer guide with tips on wasting less, launched “Save the Food,” a national public service campaign to raise awareness around food waste, helped craft a bill to standardize food date labels, and testified in Congress as to the importance of policy solutions. I have a great team that’s working on other solutions as well.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If the future President were to consider food waste solutions, how should they be addressed?
Fortunately, the current President has at least set national targets to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. Those are hopefully starting to set our federal agencies on a path to explore what they can do. They are also sparking a larger discussion about what entities outside government can do. A few of the things I’d like to see the Executive Branch pursue are better measurement and data collection, targeted grant set asides for farmers and others who are innovating to reduce food waste, and standardization of food date labels.

How do you define good food?
The kind you feel good about eating both before and after putting it in your mouth.

How did you start working on food waste reduction?
I actually stumbled upon the issue as part of work in the sustainable agriculture space. I kept reading these staggering statistics and thinking to myself, “these can’t be true because if they were, everyone would be talking about it.” From that, I wrote a report that got a lot of press coverage for the topic, and I’ve been all food waste all the time ever since.

Do you think that food waste is the largest issue currently surrounding our food system?
Ooh, hard question. I think there are a lot of big issues related to our food system, and food waste is one of them. Ultimately, if we don’t start wasting less, we’ll need to use even more resources to feed future populations. However, water availability, food insecurity, toxicity of pesticides, use of antibiotics in livestock feed… these all are serious issues as well.


What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The call for reducing food waste has resonated tremendously, and people seem to really care. I’ve loved watching this issue spark so much passion in people.

What’s one of your first food memories?
Grandma’s chicken noodle soup.

If you could get the general population to change one aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Cook more.

We are currently promoting our second #NoFoodWaste campaign. What are some #NoFoodWaste practices that you incorporate into your daily life?
I definitely recommend marrying someone who’s willing to eat almost anything. Besides that, I try to keep my fridge relatively empty and shop more frequently. It allows more flexibility and also means fresher food.

What’s always in your fridge? What do you use it for?
Maple syrup. I put it on/in everything.

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with?
Jane Goodall, my forever hero!

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Probably building small, energy-efficient homes with my husband.

What’s your go-to breakfast?
Multigrain hot cereal with cottage cheese (sounds strange, I know).

Your good food wish?
That we all eat alone a little less.

Behind the Plate


June 2, 2016

Photo credit: Paige Green

Anna Lappé is a bestselling author and food educator, focusing on food systems and sustainability. She has started numerous highly acclaimed food sustainability projects, and her latest book was named one of the best environmental books of the year. As one of TIME magazine’s “Eco” Who’s-Who and a mother of two, Anna is a total #ladyboss.

Tell us about how you got your start as a food author and educator?
Becoming a food author and educator was kind of like going into the family business: My mother, Frances Moore Lappé, wrote her 3.5-million copy bestselling book, Diet for a Small Planet, more than 40 years ago when she was 26 and has been a leading voice in addressing the root causes of hunger ever since. I never thought this would be my career, though. In fact, I had graduated from Brown and was getting a masters at Columbia on a path to work in public education and economic development, when I leapt at the chance to help my mom write a sequel to Diet. The process ultimately led to my first book, Hope’s Edge, and a journey around the world with my mother that sparked a lifelong passion for promoting food justice, sustainable food systems and a world where everyone everywhere has access to life-supporting foods.

How do you define good food?
Good food is healthy; it supports local economies; it’s raised in ways that promote environmental sustainability, biodiversity and animal welfare alongside worker well being. Not so coincidentally these are the five values at the heart of the Good Food Purchasing Policy, which I am working to help expand from the city of Los Angeles… to the rest of the country!

We just launched our second #NoFoodWaste campaign. What are some #NoFoodWaste practices that you incorporate into your daily life?
On a weekly basis, I try to make “dinners from the back of the fridge,” incorporating leftovers or wilting produce into some delicious dish. Luckily, there are countless ways to do so: revive old veggies in a pot of risotto; make a fresh stock with old onions; cook a soup with yesterday’s broccoli. The list goes on. In addition, we try as much as possible to cook from whole foods: packaging is one of the biggest forms of “food” waste we can kick out of our home.

Your book Diet For A Hot Planet addresses the climate crisis in relation to our food system. What’s one aspect of our diet that really needs to change?
By “our” if you mean the average American, the one aspect of our diet that could stand to change—and it would be a boon to both our waistline and the environment—is the amount of meat and dairy we consume. Americans consume three times more meat and dairy than the global average, with over half of that coming from red meat. (Check out this white paper from the Culinary Institute of America and their new project called The Protein Flip.) From the environmental impact of industrial meat production to the inhumane treatment of the workers in the industry, there are countless reasons to reduce our consumption. Thankfully, there is a growing market of sustainably produced meat and dairy, so consumers can choose, should they want to, less but better meat.

Who is your food inspiration?
My kids. It’s cliché, I know, but my two daughters are my inspiration: I see how happy and healthy they are eating nutritious and sustainably grown food and so I fight hard every day to ensure they can have access to food that nourishes them and so that our food system brings more of this kind of food to more kids.

Tell us about the Small Planet Fund.
My mother and I started the Fund in 2002 on the heels of our research for Hope’s Edge. We were so inspired by the groups we met on the ground; we wanted to give back—and more than just a book. We ran the Fund as a project of love for years, hosting an annual party at a friend’s loft in SoHo. For the past six years, we’ve received an annual grant from an anonymous donor to support the most exciting change agents we can find. All told, we’ve given away more than $1 million since our very humble beginnings.

What’s the most challenging moment you’ve had?
There are challenges, sure, to the work I do. My colleagues and I are going up against some of the most ruthless and deep-pocketed corporations out there. (Don’t believe me, check out examples of these companies infiltrating grassroots groups, and pounding farmers and non-profits with lawsuits and attacks—and those are just two of many). But I don’t pretend my job is “difficult” in the truest sense of that word: Difficult are the jobs of the Tyson poultry processors who risk injury and death every day on ever-faster processing lines. Difficult are the jobs of farmworkers who toil in the hot sun, who risk sexual assault and harassment to do their work and are rarely fairly compensated. Those jobs, and the more than 20 million other in the U.S. food industry, are truly difficult.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
Yes, the candidates—all of them—have been mostly mute when it comes to food. Though I would argue many of the topics that have gotten some attention—energy, climate change, fracking—are also food issues. There are so many issues that need to be addressed, but if I could have them consider one, it would be to promote across the country—in ever municipality and school district—what’s known as the Good Food Purchasing Policy. The Policy, developed by the LA Food Policy Council, and passed there in 2012, allows vendors for government contracts to be evaluated along five core values: nutrition, local economies, animal welfare, the environment and worker well being. This policy has unleashed millions of dollars for the kind of food we all should be eating and farmers should be producing. Embraced nationwide it would spark the food system changes so desperately needed; from getting antibiotics out of meat production, to boosting the wages of food sector workers and more.


You launched your annual Real Food Films contest three years ago. What have you learned from the submissions you have received?
Wow. So much. When we launched the Real Food Films competition three years ago for short videos under four minutes, I was honestly afraid we might just get a handful of entries from hipsters in Brooklyn making odes to their artisanal kombucha. What we’ve received has blown us away: more than 400 films from dozens of countries. 260 Pop-Up Film Fests have been hosted from Denmark to New Zealand and across the United States. We’ve discovered countless stories of farmers and communities bringing to life a food system that’s better for our bodies, producers and the planet. Now, we’ve got a library of more than 70 films online that anyone anywhere can watch and get inspired by—and not one of them is about bespoke kombucha.

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
Hmmm… that one really makes me think. I’m guessing it would to be the boiled cabbage and rugelah my great-grandmother Hench would make for my brother and me. When we would visit her small apartment in New Jersey, the smell of the cabbage would waft down the hall before we even rung the doorbell and would envelop us along with her huge bear hugs. The smells and the tastes connected me to my family and to our great-grandparents who had made their way from the eastern borders of Poland across the continents and the ocean to Ellis Island.

You have a project called Food MythBusters—what are your favorite three myths that you’ve busted?
My favorite big myths pushed by farm chemical giants like Syngenta, agribusiness companies like Cargill and junk food peddlers like Pepsi include: “We need industrial agriculture to feed the world.” “Organic food is no better for you than chemically grown food.” “Junk food marketing to kids is harmless free speech.” We launched Food MythBusters to fight back against these myths.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I would be a singer in a rock band. I can’t carry a tune or remember lyrics to songs, so it would not be very successful.

What was your biggest #foodfail?
When I moved to California after 17 years in New York City, I finally had a kitchen and dining room big enough to host family holidays—and we’ve hosted Christmas dinner ever since. There have been a few mishaps. One such #foodfail: I was making my favorite apple pie and just about to throw the apples tossed with cinnamon, lemon zest and sugar onto the awaiting pastry dough, when I sneakily grabbed a slice to enjoy. Luckily, it turns out: the bulk sugar I had pulled from my pantry was actually bulk salt and the entire bowl of apples was ruined. A few phone calls later and a sister saved the day: dessert was on its way and the apple pie was never missed.

What’s always in your fridge? How do you use it?
Sriracha. On everything.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go?
Nuts. No recipe required.

Favorite new recipe?
My favorite new recipe is the soba noodle soup from Mark Bittman’s new (wonderful) cookbook, The Kitchen Matrix. When my kids took the first sip, they both looked up wide-eyed and happy. The little one said: “Mom… I love you.”

Behind the Plate


May 26, 2016


Kori Petrovic, Youthmarket Program Coordinator at GrowNYC, is passionate about educating children about the food system. We all need guidance and opportunity to be able to make good food and life choices, and Kori is a crucial figure for our New York youth. You can follow Youthmarkets on Twitter @NYCyouthmarkets, and read Youthmarket staff experiences on their blog—Young & Green Homegrown.

For those just getting to know you, please tell us about your role at Youthmarket.
Youthmarket is somewhat different from a regular Greenmarket that you’re used to seeing on the streets. Instead of farmers coming to the market to sell their products, we buy wholesale produce through Greenmarket Co. and hire youth from the neighborhood to sell the produce at the stand. That way we provide seasonal jobs to teenagers, bring fresh produce to underserved communities, and support regional farmers. Youthmarket is also an educational program. We teach the youth how to run a small business; through cooking demonstrations we teach the community how to use veggies they’re not familiar with, and ways to store produce so it lasts longer; and through nutrition education workshops we show them how much sugar is in sodas and how many calories are in their favourite fast food meal. My role at the Youthmarket is to coordinate all fifteen Youthmarkets across four boroughs—from hiring and training the market managers and youth, to maintaining equipment and keeping track of paperwork. In a nutshell, I make sure that everything runs smoothly.

Foodstand celebrated Food Revolution Day last week, on May 20th. What does a food revolution mean to you?
A food revolution means going back to the basics—meaning more cooking at home from scratch with simple and fresh ingredients. I think as a society we distanced ourselves from the kitchen and communal cooking, and we’re too busy to share meals and enjoy what we’re eating. We should definitely start paying more attention to where our food comes from and how we’re using it.

What does the food world look like post-revolution, and how do we get there?
In my ideal post-food-revolution scenario everybody would have their own garden plots, would be involved with planting their own food, and would prepare food themselves. Wishful thinking. In a not-so-ideal-post-revolution-world we would just be more aware of what we’re eating—less processed foods and more home-cooked meals.

How did you first get involved with Youthmarket?
I first got involved with Youthmarket when I was part of GrowNYC’s program “Learn It Grow It Eat It.” It’s a program that works with high school teenagers, teaching them how to grow and maintain organic fruits and vegetables in three community gardens in the South Bronx. During the summer, as part of their summer job, they learn how to cook with fresh produce, teach smaller kids about gardening, and conduct simple nutrition workshops in schools and health centers. Part of their weekly job is to run a Youthmarket. At that market, three groups of five teens rotate through selling the produce, conducting cooking demos, and presenting simple nutrition workshops.

How do you define good food?
For me good food is tasty food. The kind that makes you go mmm. Food that makes you feel good after you eat it. If it’s prepared with fresh ingredients and potentially didn’t travel too far, all the better!

Who is your food inspiration?
My mum, firstly! I learned a lot by watching her prepare food while we were in the restaurant business. Secondly, being a food blogger myself, I’ve learned tons from my fellow bloggers as well. I now use spices and ingredients I probably wouldn’t use otherwise.

We believe that food can help change people’s lives. Can you tell about a success story you’ve seen at Youthmarket—how a youth’s life has been changed for the better by his/her involvement?
Every season about 60-70 teens participate in our program and early in the season most of them will be reluctant about trying fresh produce. However, by the end of the market season they’ll often proudly tell me what new fruit or a vegetable they tried and really liked (or disliked); they’ll tell me how they started to eat more veggies, and how they prepare meals at home that they share with their families. Some of them will tell me they reduced the amount of sugary drinks they drink; others say they stopped eating chips. These are small steps that lead to big changes. By positively changing their habits they directly influence their friends, siblings and other family members.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
At the end of the season—after the youth have struggled with cold and rainy weather in October and November, after the hundredth time the tent wouldn’t open, or a customer would complain about something—I’ll hear from the youth how this job was a great learning experience and how it changed them. They’ll usually tell me how it helped them improve their public speaking and that they are less nervous when speaking with new people. As a result they socialize more with their school mates; they are more outgoing, and more likely to try new things. In general, they become more confident and more patient. These are the stories I value, and these stories make my belief stronger that, indeed, we are doing something meaningful and worthwhile!

Are there any personal beliefs that you have on the overall food system that make their way into your everyday business (e.g., curbing food waste, sustainable sourcing, local sourcing)? Do tell.
I think we are wasting too much food in general. We either buy too much of it and it goes bad in our homes, or we prepare it and don’t eat everything—in both scenarios too much food ends in the garbage and eventually in the landfills. We should start paying more attention to where our food ends up. Since I started composting my food scraps I have reduced my garbage by more than half. More and more places are offering drop-off sites, and it’s becoming easier to deal with the waste. This personal belief led to finally adding compost drop-off at two Youthmarkets this year. I hope that number will grow next year.


If you had to make a food resolution this year, what would it be?
To make a new dish by mastering a new cooking technique at least once a month.

What has been your biggest work-related challenge?
One of the struggles that continuously repeats year after year is dealing with the lateness of youth staff. Out of the whole pool of teens, there are always a few that are late more than others. For a lot of them it’s their first job ever and each teenager has a different learning curve when it comes to working at a new position. I usually start by talking to them to see what’s going on in their life (personal or professional) that’s making them being late. Some may just need a subtle reminder, while others require more clearly defined consequences to get the point. If talking doesn’t work, with the help from the manager we try to work on their motivation. We’re all late from time to time, so I start at the softer end of the scale, and take stronger measures only when nothing else seems to get through.

Weather can also sometimes be a challenge. Two years ago we had a lot of cold and rainy market days in October. You have to be innovative to keep everyone’s spirits up and keep everyone positive. I always try to encourage the managers to find fun activities during the day to take their minds off the miserable weather. On the other hand, last season was very sunny and dry. We have yet to see what this year brings us.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
One of the important issues to address soon is more support for small, diversified farmers! By providing small family farms a viable outlet through which to sell their products, we help preserve farmland. Protecting family farms becomes a shared goal for both farmers and their consumers when we create more local food systems that in turn create direct-to-consumer markets that further strengthen relationships between farmers and their consumers.

If you could get the general population to change ONE aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Less processed food!

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
During my childhood in Croatia, I spent my summers at my grandparents’ house. Polenta and thick homemade yogurt was a spotlight breakfast before we took off to do our farm chores. But nothing could beat grandma’s warm bread with the best homemade rose hip or plum jam—the smell and the taste of which I still remember pretty vividly. I also loved chewing honey comb right after my grandfather pulled it out from the bee hives! (I also remember him saying a bee sting is good for arthritis!)

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t running the Youthmarket program, I’m pretty sure I would be involved in some kind food-related field. I think in today’s world it’s crucial to educate children and adolescents (and adults) about the food system and food cycle. Giving kids an opportunity to learn about the issues that affect food, and to take an active role in their own nutrition, prepares them for a lifetime of considering both health and sustainability when making choices about the food they eat.

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? And where?
Nobody in particular comes to mind. If I could, I’d really like to have a meal with a Native Indian a few centuries back. I think it would be truly remarkable to find out more about how they gathered food, prepared it and what different cooking techniques they used.

What’s always in your fridge? How do you use it?
Honey, carob powder, olives and dry sage! I love to bake so I use honey instead of sugar, and you can never go wrong with carob powder in sweets, and olives in salads. Sage tea just tastes wonderful, hot in the winter or with ice cubes in the summer.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go?
My favourite meal-on-the-go is oatmeal with roasted butternut squash, honey, chopped walnuts and cinnamon in a jar—it’s a great stress reducer (in combination with WQXR classical radio) while I’m driving the Youthmarket van on the FDR during the morning rush hour!

Favorite recipe?
One of my (many) favourite recipes is brownies with seasonal fruit (cherries and currants are soon to be found at the farmers markets!) Note: Once you click, scroll down for the English translation.

Your good food wish?
Cook! Experiment with new ingredients and try not to eat alone.

Behind the Plate


May 19, 2016
Photo credit: Matt Monroe for Jamie Magazine

Photo credit: Matt Monroe for Jamie Magazine

Daniel Nowland is the Head of Technical at Jamie Oliver Ltd. What does that mean? (We had to ask too.) Basically, anything involving food values, ethics and sourcing is Daniel’s domain—he develops Jamie’s Food Standards, and implements them. So he helps spread the sustainable, good-food word across the world!

You can help spread the good-food word, too—tomorrow is Food Revolution Day! Join Foodstand at the farmers market for our Jamie Oliver recipe demo. Can’t wait to see you there.

Tell us about what you do at Jamie Oliver Ltd.
My role is to manage Jamie’s food values, which affect how we run our business as well as set the tone for engaging with other organizations. The role involves a lot of learning, as the issues affecting our food systems continually evolve. I also then help to ensure we are in line with our own values, across everything we do.

How do you define good food?
I’d say it’s food that has been responsibly produced and responsibly consumed. Good food can include the basic nutrients we need to be healthy, as well as the pleasurable, less healthy stuff that keeps us smiling.

What does a Food Revolution mean to you?
I think it’s that moment of realization for people that good food is better for everyone, including the planet and the producers. It’s where people wise up to the dangers of too much cheap, processed food, and discover the benefits of consuming food more responsibly.

What does the food world look like post-revolution?
It is simply where people make well-informed choices about the food they source and how they consume it. Consumers will understand that price and value are very different things. Transparency in supply chains will allow consumers to select foods based on their values, tastes and quality. Consumers won’t be mislead or sucked in by multimillion dollar marketing campaigns for food that will slowly kill them and the planet.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Knowing that my job is to help drive positive change, and seeing the influence we can have with Jamie behind us. Working for a business with a real sense of purpose is an honour, and something that I never take for granted. There are few businesses in the world that genuinely put responsible behaviour and ethics at the heart of what they do.

What are the personal beliefs you have on the overall food system that make their way into your everyday business (e.g., curbing food waste, sustainable sourcing, local sourcing)? Do tell.
For me it is about animal welfare and livestock systems. My most memorable day as a food science student was when I visited a slaughterhouse for the first time. It’s where the penny dropped in terms of how animals we observe on farms are linked to the products on our supermarket shelves. It sounds silly, and kind of obvious, but it’s not until you see a large animal being slaughtered, and the process involved, that you fully appreciate the scale of the systems behind the supermarket meat aisle.

It did not put me off meat, but it made me very aware of what I was buying. I went on to work in the meat industry after graduating, and was aware that animals were living and dying in order for me to eat well, and to pay my mortgage. The compassion I gained working in this sector is something I have definitely brought to the Jamie Oliver business. I have helped to define standards for good animal welfare which we use internally, as well as spread through our relationships with other organizations.

If you had to make a food resolution this year, what would it be?
I believe me and my partner are in a good place already with the food we buy, cook and eat. We cook from scratch as much as possible and now make all of our own bread. However, I travel a lot, and therefore rely on food service in train stations, airports and hotels. I need to find ways to eat better food when I’m away from home. It’s really hard to make responsible choices when you don’t have your kitchen anywhere close. It’s really frustrating that food service doesn’t have the same level of transparency on things like animal welfare as the retail sector does.

What are Jamie’s sustainability practices?
We have a set of food values which include Ethical Buying, Environment and Waste as key topics. We believe when responsible practices occur in all three of these areas, we are helping to improve the sustainability of our food. Our Ethical Buying policy ensures all animal products in our business are from “higher-welfare” sources and our seafood is responsibly sourced. Our values in these areas not only determine how we run our business, but they also shape the work of our foundation, and our campaigning.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
Gosh… I could write a very long list! If I had to pick one, it would be to regulate the environmental footprint of livestock. i.e. incentivise producers to focus on more sustainable methods of rearing livestock, and discourage the mass production of low quality proteins, as the long term effects they have on human health, environment and sustainability are horrific.

If you could get the general population to change ONE aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Eat less meat, enabling you to buy better when you do.


What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
I was obsessed with TV cookery shows as a kid, and was never really interested in kids TV. I would then beg my mum to let me cook our family meals so that she could have the night off. By the age of 14, me and mum were sharing all of the cooking in our household, and generally all sitting and enjoying meals together as a family. I loved to be the one providing nourishment for my family through good food, although my early cooking was really basic (mainly putting things from the freezer into the oven!).

I remember working in a Fish and Chip shop on Tuesday nights as a teenager when Jamie Oliver’s “The Naked Chef” first appeared on TV. I was hooked and would end up getting orders wrong as I was more interested in the 14 inch TV I was watching. I’m not sure what I was more in love with, Jamie himself or the food he was cooking! I dreamed I would meet him one day, but never imagined I would end up working directly for him.

Not everyone has access to farmers markets or a wide variety of fresh, sustainable produce. What does Jamie recommend for those with limited resources?
We’ve never suggested that farmers markets are the only option for responsibly produced foods. Supermarkets stock some fantastic food too, but you need to be able to tell it apart from the rubbish they can also sell. Using supermarkets, but avoiding the poor quality processed foods is a good way to shop. Base your shopping on whole fruits, vegetables and quality meat and fish. Always read labels on meat, fish, eggs and dairy, and go for products certified for higher-welfare or sustainable sourcing.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t wrapped up in the food industry as seriously as I am now, I would have liked to be running my own small cafe somewhere. I’d love to be working in a food environment and working closely with the general public. I would of course be championing only responsibly produced food! A cafe with a view of the sea would definitely be a bonus.

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? And where?
A few years ago I’d have said Jamie Oliver, but I’ve done that many times now! I would love to have dinner with John Cleese. He is a comedy hero of mine, and I’d love to spend the whole evening talking about Fawlty Towers. (It’s a British comedy about a small chaotic hotel made in the 1970’s). Ideally in a good British country pub drinking beer and eating a beef and ale pie.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go?
My favourite food-on-the-go is a burrito from Chipotle. I get the chicken burrito in the UK, or the Tofu Sofritas if I’m in the US!

What’s always in your fridge? What do you use it for?
My fridge trick is to always keep the drained fat from bacon or sausages in a jam jar in the fridge door. I then use it for sweating vegetables or making pasta dishes, as it gives a lovely salty, smoky depth to food, without having to add any actual meat.

What was your biggest #foodfail?
My biggest #foodfail was when I was working as a chef in a pub in my teens. I was serving a roast beef lunch to around 100 guests after a wedding. I had miscounted the plates and servings, which meant around 10 guests never received any meat. The bride was in tears and blamed me for ruining her wedding. The groom was so angry a fight nearly broke out too. It was a day I was glad to put behind me.

Favorite meal?
Aside from lovely British food, my favourite food is traditional Greek. I spent all of my childhood summers in the Peloponnese, which is the Southern mainland of Greece. There the food is very local, seasonal and extremely fresh. My most favourite meal is a simple Greek salad, crusty bread and fresh fish. Whilst I’m tempted to keep it a secret so that it never becomes too busy, this place is probably one of the best spots on earth to enjoy a Greek salad, local table wine and fresh fish whilst looking out to the Aegean Sea!

Your good food wish?
Think about every item of food you buy. Every purchase of food is a vote for the system it came from!

Behind the Plate


May 11, 2016

Photo credit: Daniel Sheehan

Michael Moss is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who has most recently developed an important and successful career writing about health, marketing, policy and corporate interests relating to the food industry. His illuminating book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, is a #1 New York Times bestseller and a must-read. In fact, Michael will be joining Foodstand’s Food Book & Film Club to discuss the book on Tuesday, May 17th—please join us!

How do you define good food?
It’s all good to me. Seriously. Well, maybe not okra, just because my mom made a pretty slimy version that still sits in my 8-year-old memory bank. And maybe not soda, which I’ve pretty much written off as pure evil. But just last week I made a cake for my 12-year-old’s birthday, and it was all salt, sugar and fat. And yesterday, I wolfed down some potato chips, also salt, sugar and fat (the sugar in the form of potato starch that our bodies convert to glucose.) For me, the issue is controlling that stuff rather than letting it control me. So day in and day out I’m looking to eat food that I cook from scratch, lots of vegetables (with the above mentioned exception) grown by farmers and farmhands who are fairly compensated, meat from animals that are treated as kindly as possible before they have one really bad day, and I try to keep a damper on the raging bliss point for sugar that both my boys have because they are kids.

Do you think big food can be part of a better food future?
No. Well, yes, but indirectly. The Food Giants have never been good at true invention. About the last thing they invented, in fact, was instant pudding, and that happened only because the company panicked that it was going to get beaten at this by a competitor. Their idea of a new product is one with a new package color. What they can do is buy up small start-ups that do invent stuff, and it’s these little entrepreneurs who are now racing to reinvent processed food to be low-cost, convenient, tasty and actually good for you, too. So if the Food Giants are smart, they’ll buy the best of these entrepreneurs and hopefully won’t ruin them by scaling up.

What was your biggest challenge writing Salt Sugar Fat?
Cravings. I’d be spending time talking to the guy who figured out why potato chips are so irresistible, and it would take all the effort in the world to resist grabbing a bag for myself and pigging out. Just the talk, and extraordinary science the companies use, would send the reward centers of my brain into overdrive. (Once I finished, however, things changed, and now I can walk through the grocery store and just laugh at those chips, knowing all that goes into their design and marketing, which oddly enough empowers me to make smarter decisions about what to buy.)

What first inspired you to write about health and food?
A couple of FBI agents and a really smart editor at the New York Times. In 2008 I was in Algeria reporting on militants there when the agents showed up at the paper in Manhattan, looking for me. Since 2005 I had been traveling to Iraq, tormenting the Pentagon for failing to equip American soldiers with body armor, and then reporting on how the war was empowering terrorists to recruit new help, which the agents said had landed me on an Al Qaeda hit list. I hustled back to New York, and right into another war, this one over food. My editor, Christine Kay, had spotted an outbreak of salmonella in peanuts processed at a factory in southern Georgia that were sickening thousands of people, used by a $1 trillion processed food industry that had lost control over its ingredients, and Christine recognized this for the huge story it was. A year later, after investigating the industry’s shoddy handling of hamburger, I started looking at three things the industry intentionally adds to its products with huge repercussions of public health, namely salt, sugar, and fat.

Talk a little about “bliss point”—what is it? And how did you react when you first heard the term?
Well, as the food scientist who coined this expression, Howard Moskowitz, said, “What are you going to call it, `optimum sensory liking?’ ” You have to love the language the processed food industry uses to describe its efforts to maximize the allure of its products. Its people talk about “engineering” products to be “craveable,” “snackable” and have “more-ishness.” And the bliss point is right in there. It’s the perfect amount of sweetness, not too little and not too much, that sends us over the moon and their products flying off the shelf, and when I first heard Moskowitz describe this, I was sort of blasé. I mean, well of course the industry does this. We are creatures born to love sugar. Just look at our taste buds. The ones that like sweet are all over the tongue.

Do you think it’s possible to reset America’s bliss point?
The problem with the bliss point and sugar is not that industry has perfected the sweetness for cookies and ice cream, things we know as sweets and should be treating as treats. The problem is that the industry has marched around the grocery store adding sugar to, and engineering bliss points for, things that didn’t used to be sweet. So that bread now has added sugar and a bliss point for sweet. Some yogurts came to have as much sugar per serving as ice cream. And pasta sauce, forget about it. Some brands ended up with a couple of Oreo cookies worth of sugar in a tiny half cup serving, and what that has done is create an expectancy that everything we eat should be sweet, which is a problem especially for those little walking bliss points for sugar called kids when you drag them over to the produce section and try to get them to eat some of that okra. Instant rebellion.



What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I’m first of all a reporter, and so I still get a big kick from crawling inside the underbelly of the processed food industry to discover some new, totally surprising scheme on its part to get us to not just like its products, but to want more and more. But I’m also spending time these days working on my speaking, with some pretty good success, and so I’m having great fun holding an audience captive for an hour or more, telling my food story, and the most rewarding moment is when someone tells me the book or the talk has changed their life.

Are you making a food resolution this year?
Not to make tacos for dinner more than twice a week. My kids are actually pleading for this. My wife is working long hours, so cooking has fallen to me, and boy is it hard to go week to week without boring the shit out of the family with the same old recipes.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
What do you mean barely? Didn’t Cruz say he loved eating cheese on cheese? He would have been perfect for the dairy marketing schemes I wrote about that tripled our consumption to 33 pounds a year on average by moves like stuffing cheese in the crust of pizzas. And Clinton recently came out for the soda tax, which I’ve come to like. I’d ask the now-presumptive Republican nominee to champion the use of smarter marketing practices by the produce industry to sell more vegetables, and thus nudge us all toward better health. Didn’t he hear they were all aphrodisiacs?

If you could get the general population to change ONE aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
I can tell you what one Food Giant’s chief technical officer did when he blew out his knee and could no longer run marathons to burn off calories. He stopped eating his company’s own products, cold turkey, knowing that he was one of the many of us who couldn’t stop eating snacks until the whole bag was gone. He also stopped consuming calories in liquid form, that is drinks, which I think is really interesting. I’m trying to do the same, and thankfully everyone knows that wine and beer don’t have calories.

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
I was a latchkey kid at age 10, and loved to come home to strawberry Pop Tarts. Then just a while ago, I was visiting the secret R&D facility of Kellogg’s in Battle Creek, Michigan, where way off in the corner someone was cooking up a huge batch of Pop Tarts, and wow, the aroma wafted over and took me right back to childhood. It’s incredible what those memories can do.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Taking pictures. In a war zone. I was so glad I went to Iraq as a reporter, not a photographer, because they have to shoot while the bullets are flying and that’s totally addictive. It was hard enough for me to give up reporting on war, and I wasn’t even a war reporter, but rather just dabbling.

What’s always in your fridge? What do you use it for?
I’m a little nuts about sourdough bread these days, so in my fridge is a starter, and in the freezer is a variety of flour. Friday night after family movie time I’m usually in the kitchen plundering the starter for a Sunday bake.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go?
Lately, walking down the street, I like a nice handful of pistachios in the shell.

How have your eating habits changed since writing the book?
Not terribly. We started eating better in my house when my now 16-year-old son was born, thinking that was one thing we could do to avoid ruining him. More recently, after reporting on some shocking experimentation undertaken by the Department of Agriculture to make farm animals more profitable at the expense of their well-being, I’m pretty ruined even for taco trucks unless I know the chicken or ground chuck is not industrial and instead comes from animals the USDA hasn’t ruined.

Sugar, salt, and fat continue to be at the forefront of food discussion—e.g. “sugar is the new fat, fat is the new delicious…” What are your reflections on the book given the current environment?
I love that “salt sugar fat” has become a thing. But I have a confession. As much as I focused on them, and the industry’s own deep reliance on them has been getting us into trouble, the solution is not to just dial back on salt sugar fat, which all the Food Giants are now racing to do, concerned about losing the trust of consumers. The biggest way to better health, nutritionists tell me, is getting more vegetables and other good stuff into your mouth, which the companies have lots of trouble putting into their products.

Your good food wish?
That we should all be so lucky as to be in love with food and with eating.

Behind the Plate


May 6, 2016


There was still a little chill in the air the day Foodstand’s Summer Rayne Oakes (@sugardetoxme) sat down to interview Barry Benepe. They agreed to meet at the Union Square Greenmarket on a Wednesday—one of the busiest market days of the week (~300,000 walk throughs in a given day) —and spend a good forty minutes talking about how it all came to be. It is the Greenmarket.

Barry, who was an urban planner in the 70s, went on to spearhead urban revival throughout New York City by ushering in the creation of our city’s Greenmarkets as a way to connect urban dwellers to surrounding farms. So in a way, you can say that Barry is the Father of NYC’s farmers markets. That’s how Summer introduced him to those who stopped by Foodstand’s demo booth at the market when Barry paused to thank Summer for the interview. Rest assured—the people there were genuinely starstruck, particularly because the 50+ Greenmarkets and 15 Youthmarkets in the city have become a fixture for many-a-people’s daily or weekly shopping habits. Here’s how it all began:

Why did you go with “Greenmarket” vs. the more traditional “farmers market”?
We talked to the city law department and consumer affairs and we wanted to have them say the “farmers market”. To do it legally they had to be farmers selling farm produce. They wouldn’t do it until city council passed a law. So we couldn’t go farmers market and then had to explain what a Greenmarket was—from the farm to table. You are really dealing with farmers—buying from the farmers. It used to be the farmers that sold, and it wasn’t until recent years that they began hiring city people. Even now, the farmer has to be there a certain number of days in the year.

Who was initially buying [from the market]? Ordinary citizens? Chefs?
Everyday people. Not chefs. Danny Meyer from Union Square Cafe said he located here because the market is here. He is devoted to local produce. That was the beginning of chefs shopping here, and I believe they pay retail prices when they shop here. I think there are at least 70 chefs that shop here now, if not more.

How often do you cook for yourself at home?
All the time. I love cooking for myself. I’m totally inventive. I love food. I love leftovers especially! One thing I do: I never repeat a meal.

What were the problems that you were looking to solve when you came up with the idea for creating a farmers market in New York?
I was a planning consultant and I hired a man named Bob Lewis… I had developed a zoning map that was unique. Up until that point, zoning maps were flat. I had a sense of the larger picture of land and how it was used.

While Bob and I were working with our clients, we saw the lack of attention to farming. That led Bob and me to discuss how we could help farmers save farming. The other thing that was obvious to us was that the quality of food in our stores was terrible! In August when peaches are ripening in Long Island, they weren’t appearing in New York. They were hard and green and from California or somewhere else. There was no sense of food taste, smell or handling—everything was wrapped in shrink wrap. We didn’t have a sense of real food. We wanted to link the sense of a farm economy with a concept of nutrition and enjoyment of eating food.

Also, I grew up on a farm. My father bought the farm in 1938 when I was 10, and as I became a teenager, I worked on the farm. I helped harvest, package and deliver the food to market which was usually an auction block. Or canneries for tomatoes and freezing plants for food to be frozen. None of it was shipped fresh. Occasionally my brother would drive to the market in Baltimore or maybe in New York to sell wholesale by the basket, but generally none of our food wound up fresh on anyone’s table.

Was there anyone running something equivalent to a farmers market at the time—whether in the city or otherwise?
The city of Rochester was running a successful farmers market program run by the Chamber of Commerce. And they did it because they wanted to bring business downtown. Business was suffering and they thought a farmers market would do it, and they were correct.

The woman who was head there, Susan Snook, was very generous with information and helped us get started. Bob also read about Richard Po who was part of Williams Farmland Preservation. Richard Po gave us a cash contribution of $800 to go out and raise money. At that time I did a feasibility study for the city to do a farmers market. We went to a couple of foundations—the Kaplan family (part of Welch’s Grape Juice) made a donation, and America the Beautiful Fund to bring life to city spaces.

Any stories of farmers markets in the city before yours?
Well, when I was looking for farmers, I came upon a farmer by the name of John Monaghan who I was told used to farm in Queens. He was a man in his eighties—and don’t forget this was in 1976. And he told me that he remembered being a young man in his 20s and coming to sell at the foot of the Queensborough Bridge. I looked this up in the 1911 Bureau Farmers Report and there was a farmers market there that only allowed the farmers to sell as a retail market. He said when that market opened, he would come across on the ferry. And that he was the first farmer on the bridge ever. I had this confirmed in an article on the 100th Anniversary of the bridge in the New York Times. I thought it was an interesting story that we were coming back to that origin, to that place, where the first market opened.


Where did the farmers come from for the Greenmarket?
Bob went to the county agents and cooperative extension agents in NJ and NY because they already had a list of farmers with farm stands and pick-your-own and things like that. These were farmers who were used to retailing. But they were very suspicious about coming in. Ocean County, NJ is just across the harbor—not one farmer from Ocean County was interested in coming. One made the comment, “Yeah we’re going drive our trucks home with empty pockets.”

They thought that somehow the mafia would control things. And that was a real fear because the waterfront was controlled by the mafia and they controlled everyone with a truck. They held people up, and took money from them—New York was a crime city. That was mainly in the 40s and 50s, and we were far from that time, but there was still suspicion about New York.

So it took some heavy convincing. What did he ultimately do?
Bob spent time on the phone reaching out to them. So that summer, we opened three markets—59th Street first. We handled publicity and got responses from three major TV channels. They wanted to cover the market—it would appear at the end of the major news. The news was bad back in the 70s and this was the “good news” at the end of the show. People were calling City Hall asking where the farmers market was, but City Hall knew nothing about it! It took time to educate the city that we were working there.

How was the Union Square Farmers Market formed?
We were asked if we would come down to Union Square; they were trying to revive the area. They had prepared a plan for Union Square that showed a tennis court where the market is, and I said, “Change your plan; take the tennis court out and have a farmers market,” which they did. And they also took charge in getting the permits that we need.

What was the area like?
Oh, this was a BAD area, all the stores were closed, and they were trying to use us as a mechanism to turn the area around. And so when we started, it was a dismal area. And people didn’t want to shop there.

How many farmers were you able to convince to showcase at Union Square?
We had at least 12 farmers, and grew to 18. We had 9 on each side on 59th Street. It was Saturdays only to start and didn’t go to the end of the day, but we had around 2,000-foot traffic. The farmers did well.

Did you go back to your original farmers?
I think in general, the farmers from 59th Street did both locations. Some of them are still around and can probably tell you—S & SO Produce Farm. Not only the same farmers came down but when we broadened Union Square to additional days—we went from Saturday to Wednesday and then we later added a Friday and a Monday—the same farmers kept on coming in and no other farm could gain access to the Monday markets. So we said Monday is only for new farmers. We had a lot of organic growers who couldn’t get into the other markets or didn’t know about them.

What were the rules of the farmers market—if you had any to start?
We were in the process of developing rules. The first day we opened at 59th Street, one farmer came in with toys, and another came in with bananas. I asked the guy, “What’s up with the toys?” He said, “Well, they were up in the attic, so I thought I’d bring them down.” So we nixed things outside of produce to start. Then the other rule became: you had to grow your own, but could buy 25% locally. That rule I think still holds. We started with fruits and vegetables, and then we started to move into dairy products, eggs, butter, and meat.

How were you advertising in the city?
My children worked with me in the Greenmarket and we made t-shirts in the first year. Signage was important. We tried a banner across 2nd Avenue where 59th Street location was, and we had it very high, but a big boom truck ripped it down, so we gave up on that. We got permission to put up signs on the poles.

What food issue do you want to see put back on the political agenda?
I would like to see all the stores sell food directly from the farmers.

So all local all the time?
I want to see the Greenmarket go out of business because all the stores go local.

What’s a good day at the farmers market?
Here [in Union Square] $3,000 or more. People who shop in the market often don’t shop for price (even though we might be cheaper). First of all, people shop from their favorite farmers. Also, they like the choices. We have 50 varieties of lettuce! You can’t find that in the supermarket.

What’s your local farmers market?
Abingdon Square Farmers Market. Usually on Saturday we go there first and get some of the heavy stuff, and then come here to Union Square. I need to get the dairy products here, the milk and things. Flatbreads we can get here.

What is your biggest #foodfail?
That’s funny. The one that failed also succeeded. Chocolate soufflé. The first one I made was perfect. The second one I made collapsed. I don’t know what I did wrong, but still ate it. The other thing I failed at was cooking roast beef for Colette Rossant, an acclaimed food writer and critic. And it failed when she came—I didn’t realize I put in a frozen piece of meat. So after two hours, when it was supposed to be done, it was still hard! I forgot to thaw it out the day before.

Any great restaurants you particularly like in the city?
One restaurant just opened a block from my house called Bespoke Kitchen. Judith, my wife, introduced me as the founder of the Greenmarket and the chef and team were so excited to talk about food. When the bill came out it said, $0.00, and the food was just magnificent. We have gone back, and they came with a huge amount of food. I took enough food home for five more meals. Another restaurant we love to go to is the restaurant in the Jane Hotel—Cafe Gitane. Seeing the sunset come through the windows over the Hudson… very beautiful. And they are very nice people. They do Moroccan cuisine there which is really good.

What are some good food tips?
One little thing I’ll do is use beet juice to cook carrots because it deepens the orange of the carrots. It’s fun. With greens, I use apples, raisins and nuts sometimes. One thing I particularly love to do are omelets. I beat the whites up separately and then add the yolk to it. I like to use a lot of ingredients.

How are you involved with the Greenmarket today?
As a customer!

Behind the Plate


April 29, 2016



Edie Feinstein (@EdieBKFW) is the Community and Marketing Manager at Brooklyn FoodWorks. As a native New Yorker, Brooklyn is familiar territory, but running a kitchen that houses over 50 food startups is entirely new! We’ve gotten to know Edie and Brooklyn FoodWorks through various events Foodstand has hosted in her space, including Foodstand Spotlight, and most recently our first Food Book & Film Club. Hopefully you’ll join us at our next event and meet Edie in person.


For those just getting to know you, how would you describe Brooklyn FoodWorks?
Brooklyn FoodWorks simplifies food entrepreneurship. Through comprehensive educational events and training, a diverse roster of industry experts and access to a state of the art, commercial kitchen facility, Brooklyn FoodWorks provides culinary entrepreneurs with affordable, turn-key solutions to accelerate their business growth.

What are some of the principles that guide your business?
We operate a 10,000 square foot facility with very few walls, so we are working really hard on building a community based on trust (no stolen ingredients!), and shared learning. We have 50+ companies in various stages of business that have so much knowledge to share with one another (where to print labels, which stores to approach, etc).

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
I had an adventurous palate from day one. During my second grade graduation speech, I mentioned that my favorite foods were artichokes and hearts of palm.

Are you making a food resolution this year?
I am trying really hard to cut down on added sugar. I have a red licorice, which makes this challenging, but I really do want to cut back.

What inspired you to open your business?
We responded to a Request For Proposal put out by the NYC Economic Development Corporation and the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, and won the bid! We were interested in this project because we know that there are so many great food businesses springing up in Brooklyn, and recognized the severe lack of shared kitchen space for them to produce out of. We see this as a huge opportunity, and are so happy for the 50+ businesses that we’ve been able to bring on board to date.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
Mandatory nutrition education programs in schools! Kids need to learn about this from a young age. Most med schools don’t even include courses on nutrition! Crazy.


Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? and where?
Julia Child at her home in Paris!

What’s the most rewarding aspect of Brooklyn FoodWorks?
The most rewarding aspect is when I see our members out in the real world—members busting their butts at Smorgasburg each weekend, and #BKFW made products on the shelves in grocery stores around town. Seeing their success makes it all worth it!

If you could get the general population to change ONE aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Study the nutrition label before you purchase/eat!

What has been your hardest moment in relation to your business?
Construction was delayed for a few months beyond the expected opening date. This was super tough because we had members already on board who were waiting and waiting. This was a good lesson in setting realistic expectations!

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Traveling the world. I have incredible wanderlust, and would love to continue to explore various cultures and all of the wonderful food that is out there.

What’s always in your fridge? What do you use it for?
Sriracha on top of everything! Tahini. Soy sauce. Sundried tomatoes. Miso. Lots of flavor bombs!

Your good food wish?
My good food wish is that nobody goes to sleep hungry at night.

BONUS: Favorite recipe.
Short Ribs!

Behind the Plate


April 22, 2016


Anastasia Cole Plakias, Co-Founder of Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farms (@brooklyngrange) and author of The Farm on the Roof, lives and breathes urban, sustainable farming. She’s the ultimate inspiration for Earth Day! What was once a dream is now the world’s largest rooftop soil farm, and her book tells the story.

Join us Monday, April 25th at 6pm at Brooklyn FoodWorks to meet Anastasia in person at Foodstand’s Food Book & Film Club. Anastasia will present a short reading from The Farm on the Roof before answering your questions. We will also feature a short film screening of Brooklyn Farmer—the night will revolve around what it means to run a small food business in New York, with a special emphasis on maintaining one’s values as business grows. Be sure to use promo code GRANGE at checkout for $5 off. Here’s Anastasia to whet your palate.


For those just getting to know you, how would you describe Brooklyn Grange?
Brooklyn Grange is a triple bottom line rooftop farming business. We grow over 50,000 lbs of organically-cultivated produce per year on two rooftops spanning 2.5 acres. Brooklyn Grange also hosts events from educational farming workshops, to product launches, and weddings; and provides urban farming and green roof consulting and installation services to clients worldwide. We also partner with numerous non-profit organizations throughout New York to promote healthy and strong local communities.

Are there any personal beliefs that you have on the overall food system that make their way into your everyday business (e.g., curbing food waste, sustainable sourcing, local sourcing)? Do tell.
If anything, the farm’s mission has made its way into my every day life! I really don’t waste anything anymore. I see how hard our farmers work to grow the beautiful food we harvest, so when I bring it home, I use every last bit of it. After taking the leaves off a sprig of thyme, I’ll save the stem and stick it in a pot along with other scraps for veggie stock. What I don’t eat, I compost. It’s not unusual to see me bicycling along the East River greenway to the farm in the morning with a bunch of dead flowers and some watermelon rinds overflowing from the compost bin in my basket.

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
Every summer, I make my mom’s Pasta alla Cecche recipe and it brings me back to squishing just-blanched, farm fresh tomatoes between my fingers as a kid—the sweet-tart fragrance mingling with the spicy perfume of fresh basil and pungent raw garlic in a big bowl on the counter of our tiny galley kitchen. I am forever grateful to my parents for raising me with a reverence for quality ingredients and a passion for preparing them.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go: What do you make or where do you buy it?
I’m a native New Yorker, so a good slice of pizza will always hit the spot. It’s in my DNA. I love throwing handfuls of fresh basil, arugula, hot chilis, and thick slices of ripe tomato from the farm on a piping hot piece of cheese pizza. Nothing like it in the world.

Are you making a food resolution this year?
My partner and I have decided to start bringing our own food containers with us when we go out to eat in case we need to bring leftovers home! We’re tired of recycling take-out boxes. It’s just too much packaging.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of Brooklyn Grange?
Without a doubt, the most rewarding aspect of Brooklyn Grange is the community that has come together around the farm. Our team is made up of the most incredible individuals, and not a day goes by that I don’t learn something new from one of my colleagues. And it’s not just the Brooklyn Grange team that inspires me—the network of organizations with whom we partner to engage a wider segment of the community has become essential to our company culture. When I see City Growers, our sister non-profit organization, bringing a group of NYC public school youth to the roof, I cannot help but harken back to my days as a NYC public school student, and I’m so glad that these kids have an opportunity to experience the world of possibility just above their sight-lines. And they’re not the only ones—Refugee Immigrant Fund, which brings asylum-seekers to our farm for training and community-building, has introduced us to some of the most incredible individuals I’ve ever met who have really changed the way I think about my daily life. I don’t take things for granted as I once did. To that end, I should admit that the second most rewarding aspect of Brooklyn Grange are those moments I find myself alone on the farm. Maybe I’m working late and duck out of the office to harvest a few things for dinner before the sun sets—the rest of the city is a million miles away. The birds are swooping into the cucumber vines to snatch up beetles, or are happily pecking away at the face of a sunflower, and a row of baby mustard greens catches the last light in a dazzling shimmer. It’s magic, and in those moments I feel like the luckiest lady on earth.


Your new book The Farm on the Roof tells about entrepreneurship, community, and growing a sustainable business. What inspired you to write it?
I feel strongly that when you innovate—when you start a project as unprecedented as ours—you are obligated to a certain level of transparency, and to share the lessons you’ve learned with the wider world. To that end, our policy at Brooklyn Grange is that we answer every single message we receive, and doing so has meant spending many, many hours at a computer or on the phone, having conversations with academic researchers, fellow farmers, policy makers, journalists, architects and designers, and the merely curious. It occurred to us that organizing all those conversations in one place might be useful to folks. I also personally really want to make a case for small businesses!

What was your biggest challenge writing the book?
It was just a really challenging process through and through. Balancing my other duties with a rigorous writing schedule wasn’t always easy. At the time, Brooklyn Grange’s offices were just a tiny little room that the whole staff shared (we’ve since moved into much more spacious digs) so I mostly wrote from home, or the coffee shops of northern Greenpoint, near my apartment. Staying connected to the subject matter—the farm—while being so removed from it was difficult at times.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
I know, right?! Thank you for pointing that out. It’s truly incredible that our candidates dedicate so much time to discussing healthcare and climate change but none on food and farming, by which the former are directly affected. There’s a lot to discuss when it comes to food, so it’s tough to even know where to begin, but I would almost certainly ask that they create a plan to move our farming systems towards greater independence from fossil fuels and corn-based foods.

If you could get the general population to change ONE aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
I wish we’d eat fewer processed, packaged foods. When we eat real food, we eat less of it because it’s more expensive but also more nutritious and fills you up faster. And when we buy meat at the butcher or cheese at the cheesemonger, it should be wrapped in paper instead of sitting in a styrofoam boat or individually wrapped in plastic sheets which take energy to produce and never decompose. But we can’t ask people to pay more for food when healthcare is so expensive, and we can’t expect parents working multiple jobs and making a minimum wage that isn’t livable to spend time preparing and cooking whole foods when they get home at the end of a twelve hour day. So we have our work cut out for us before we can start making demands of our citizenry.

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? And where?
I’d invite Earl Butz, the Agriculture Secretary under Nixon and Ford who’s “get big or get out” model for America’s farmers was largely responsible for monocultures and the current corn-dominant diet that has lead to obesity and illness in so much of this country. I would like to meet him in one of the corn, soy, and cattle farming communities of America devoid of any place to buy fresh foods, and challenge him to source and cook us dinner.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I would likely pursue a political career. I’m a pretty passionate advocate for that in which I believe strongly, and I think I can be pretty convincing.

What’s always in your fridge? What do you use it for?
There’s always a bin in my fridge collecting clippings and scraps from the food I prep: garlic and onion skins, ginger peels, carrot and fennel trimmings, old celery stalks. When the bin fills up, I toss everything with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and peppercorns, and place it on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven till it starts to fill the kitchen with its aroma, anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes. Then I scrape the whole mess into a pot, cover with water, and simmer for 30-45 minutes till I’ve got a stock. If I don’t need it right away, I freeze it in ice cube trays or tupperware to use later on in soups, risotto, or to cook grains like rye berries, einkorn, farro, or couscous.

How do you define good food?
I think good food is an extremely subjective concept. Trying to create a universal definition for it has gotten us into a lot of trouble: that’s how we’ve ended up with fad diets and snake oil supplements that often cause more anxiety and body image issues than health and well-being. But generally speaking, good food doesn’t cause harm to the people or ecosystem that produces it, and consuming it is both enjoyable and nourishing.

You’re not new to writing, having written for magazines in the past. How did writing your book differ from your previous experiences?
That’s a great question! In a lot of ways, the experiences were more alike than different. For example, The Farm on the Roof is less of an account of my own personal experiences as a co-founder, than it is the story—written primarily in first person plural—of an organization. Just as magazines have certain tones they like to strike with their readers, so too does Brooklyn Grange have a distinct voice and message of its own. And while I’ve definitely contributed to that voice and message as a co-founder and operator over the last six years, there were certain moments over the years that I undoubtedly experienced quite differently from my teammates. So, much like writing in the tone of a magazine, I tried to find the voice of Brooklyn Grange.

The best part about being in the food industry?
Being able to talk, think, write about, and play with food all the time!

Your good food wish?
I wish that access to clean, healthy, fair food was a right rather than a privilege.

BONUS: Favorite recipe.
Pasta all Cecche (pronounced in my house as “Pasta alla Kiki!”)

3 lbs large, red, ripe or slightly overripe tomatoes (about 6-8)
1 box high quality spaghetti, or the pasta of your choice!
3-4 cloves garlic
1 big bunch basil leaves
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
Pinch(es) chili flakes (optional)
Hard cheese for grating, such as Pecorino Romano, or Parmigiano-Reggiano

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it liberally. How much salt? Well, as they say in Italy, that water should be “salty as the sea!”

When the water is boiling and salted, add the tomatoes and boil about 30 seconds, until the skins begin to peel back from the flesh. Use a wire mesh skimmer to gently lift the tomatoes out of the water and into a colander to drain. Cover the pot of water and bring down to a simmer.

While the tomatoes are cooling, set out a large ceramic or wood bowl. Peel the garlic cloves and use the side of a knife to smash them. Rub all over the inside of the bowl, then throw the whole cloves in and add the olive oil. Tear the basil leaves into small pieces and add those as well. If you are using chili flakes, throw those into the bowl too.

Bring the pot of water back to a full boil, and add your pasta, stirring. I like to set a timer for the lower cook time suggested on the package. It is very important that the pasta be al dente (a bit toothsome) because it will absorb some of the tomato water.

While the pasta is cooking, peel the tomatoes and use your hands to break them up into the bowl with the other ingredients, removing the core, or any hard bits around the stem, as you go. When the pasta is done, use tongs (or the wire mesh skimmer, if using a piece pasta) to lift it from the boiling water onto the tomatoes, bringing a bit of the pasta water with it. Let it sit for 2-3 minutes, steaming, before mixing it into the tomato-oil sauce. Let come to room temperature and serve garnished with grated cheese, and if you’re feeling super decadent, a piece of bread for fare la scarpetta!