James Beard Foundation launches campaign to speed federal action on climate change

The chef-led initiative underscores climate impact on independent restaurants based on research from José Andrés’ Global Food Institute at The George Washington University.
climate change image
The impact of climate change on independent restaurants is the focus of a new campaign from the James Beard Foundation. | Photo: Shutterstock.

The James Beard Foundation (JBF) on Tuesday announced the launch of a campaign to ignite government action on climate change, focusing on the toll it is taking on independent restaurants and the farmers who supply them.

“Climate Solutions for Restaurant Survival” aims to unite chefs across the country to raise awareness, educate federal policymakers and galvanize action to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The campaign was spurred by a new report from The George Washington University's Global Food Institute, founded by renowned chef, humanitarian and food policy activist, José Andrés.

According to the report, rising temperatures, extreme weather events, floods, drought, fire, and shifts in agricultural patterns have all contributed to the rise of inflation and food costs in recent years.

“As a chef, and in my work with restaurants around the world, I see first-hand the impact of climate change on the ingredients we source, the dishes we prepare, and on the communities and people we serve,” said Andrés in a statement. “This research is more than just a collection of data and insights; it’s a rallying cry for chefs, restaurateurs, food producers, policymakers, and all actors across the supply chain. And it is just a taste of what’s to come from the Global Food Institute at The George Washington University in our urgent journey to shape a better food system.”

During a webinar announcing the campaign, JJ Johnson, chef-owner of fast-casual Field Trip in New York City, zeroed in on rice. “I purchase 5,000 pounds of rice a month from farmers in the U.S.,” said Johnson, who oversees three locations. “For every one degree Celsius the temperature rises, the rice yield decreases by 14%.” Lower yields mean higher prices, a cost he has to pass on to his customers. But even when he raises menu prices by 35 cents, there’s consumer backlash, he said.

Emma Jagoz, founder of Moon Valley Farm in Woodsboro, Md. and another webinar participant, talked about how crop losses due to hail, wind and drought have led to increased prices to restaurants and limited menus for consumers. Climate change has also affected seasonality; summer now blurs into fall and winter into spring.

Through the “Climate Solutions for Restaurant Survival” campaign, the James Beard Foundation intends to bring together chefs nationwide in a call to action. It will harness their first-hand experience to make clear that climate change is not only an environmental crisis; it's a clear and present danger to the independent restaurant community.

JBF outlined these action points:

  • Providing communications support: The Foundation will equip chefs and culinary leaders with essential information, data and media and advocacy training. It will also provide toolkits and communication assets to assist in educating federal policymakers.
  • Elevating voices of change: The Foundation will create opportunities and platforms for chefs and producers to make their voices heard. This will include testimonial videos, social media campaigns, press engagements and events. The Foundation will also collaborate with chefs and their suppliers to organize events at the state and local levels, fostering support for federal action from the ground up.
  • Coordinating direct engagement with policymakers: To ensure that Congressional members, staff and executive branch officials understand the challenges posed by climate change, the Foundation will bring chefs and farmers to Washington, D.C. for direct engagement. 
  • Hosting roundtable conversations: The Foundation will facilitate roundtable discussions involving chefs, policymakers and experts. These conversations will focus on finding solutions, sharing lessons learned and organizing collective action.
  • Deploying James Beard Foundation Leadership: The Foundation’s leadership will use its influence and platforms to raise awareness and mobilize a groundswell of voices for change across the industry.
  • Farm Visits: The Foundation will arrange visits to local farms for chefs and policymakers. This firsthand experience will demonstrate how what happens on the farm directly affects what happens in the kitchen and create a collective voice for federal action.

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