Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Michelle Obama Honored By James Beard Foundation With Leadership Award

First Lady and nine visionaries lauded for "creating a healthier, safer, and more sustainable food world;" she will not attend Award ceremony and dinner...

First Lady Michelle Obama has been cited as a "game-changing pioneer" in the food world by the New York-based James Beard Foundation, which today announced that she is among ten honorees chosen for their inaugural Leadership Awards. The Foundation annually awards what have been dubbed "the Oscars of the food world" to chefs and restaurants, but the new awards recognize "visionaries in the business, government and education sectors responsible for creating a healthier, safer, and more sustainable food world." Mrs. Obama was tapped for launching the Let's Move! campaign. Honorees will be feted during a dinner and awards ceremony in October in New York City, but Mrs. Obama will not be attending, her Press Secretary, Hannah August, told Obama Foodorama. (Above: Mrs. Obama in July, announcing one of the many private sector partnerships for Let's Move!)

The First Lady was also named in April to the 2011 Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world for the Let's Move! campaign.

“Our new Leadership Awards shine the spotlight on game-changing pioneers who have inspired positive action to improve our country’s food system," said Susan Ungaro, president of the Beard Foundation.

The First Lady is accompanied on the honoree list by urban agriculture expert Will Allen, who joined Mrs. Obama at the White House on the day Let's Move! was launched in February of 2010; Fedele Bauccio, Debra Eschmeyer, Sheri Flies, Jan Kees Vis, Fred Kirschenmann, Alice Waters, Craig Watson, and author/professor Janet Poppendieck, who joined Mrs. Obama for the June 2010 launch of Chefs Move to Schools. Waters, Eschmeyer, and Kirschenmann have also visited the White House.

The visionaries were chosen by an advisory board comprised of a dozen experts from diverse areas of expertise, the Foundation said. Among the criteria used to select the honorees are "excellence of work, innovation in approach and scale of impact within a community or the nation." The judges included chefs Dan Barber and Rick Bayless as well as nutrition expert Marion Nestle and former USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Gus Schumacher, all of whom have visited the Obama White House. Barber, owner of Blue Hill restaurant at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York, is an appointee on the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, and also cooked a special luncheon Mrs. Obama hosted for UN spouses at his resturant last Fall. Bayless was the guest chef for the second State Dinner of the Administration, in honor of President Felipe Calderon of Mexico.

The awards were initially announced last year during the Foundation's first-ever sustainable food policy conference held in Washington, DC, which was invitation only. Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass addressed the gathering, and is featured in a Beard Foundation video promoting this year's edition of the conference. ObFo noted when posting the video "No word yet on Kass' attendance at the next conference, but it's a pretty good bet that First Lady Obama will be presented with some kind of award from the Foundation." Mrs. Obama has rapidly caused a paradigm shift in America's approach to food.

The honorees, minus Mrs. Obama, will be feted on October 12 at a ceremony and dinner in New York, prepared by James Beard Award-winning chefs Michel Nischan (also a White House visitor) and Anne Quatrano during the second annual James Beard Foundation Food Conference. The invitation-only conference, co-hosted by Good Housekeeping, will take place Oct. 12 and 13 at the Hearst Tower in New York City.

The full honoree list, as released by James Beard Foundation:

Will Allen, Founder and President, Rainbow Farmer’s Cooperative and Founder and CEO of Growing Power:

For his lifelong work as a farmer and community activist dedicated to supporting low-income and small family farmers who bring healthy, affordable food to urban areas.

Fedele Bauccio, CEO, Bon Appétit Management Company:

For his commitment to quality food and socially responsible food sourcing.

Debra Eschmeyer, Co-Founder and Program Director, FoodCorps:

For addressing the issues of childhood obesity and diet-related disease through school lunch programs with the National Farm to School Network and her leadership of FoodCorps’ innovative programming.

Sheri L. Flies, Assistant General Merchandise Manager, Corporate Foods, Costco Wholesale Corporation:

For her work on the Juan Francisco Project, which assessed the sustainability of the existing supply chain for French beans in Guatemala and determined how it affects the lives of farmers and their families, and for playing a key role in Costco’s efforts to integrate sustainable practices in its buying decisions.

Jan Kees Vis, Global Director, Sustainable Sourcing Development, Unilever:

For his work in creating the Sustainable Living Plan at Unilever with clear goals of reducing waste, water use, and GHG emissions by 50% and achieving 100% sustainable sourcing by 2020, and for his industry-wide leadership in the Palm Oil Roundtable.

Fred Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University and President of the Board of Directors, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture:

For his lifelong work on sustainable food and farming systems.

First Lady Michelle Obama:

For launching Let’s Move!, a comprehensive initiative dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation.

Janet Poppendieck, Author and Professor of Sociology at Hunter College, City University of New York, and at the CUNY Graduate Center:

For bringing issues of poverty, hunger, and food assistance to the forefront through her teaching and books, such as Sweet Charity? Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement and Free For All: Fixing School Food in America.

Alice Waters, Chef, Author, and the Proprietor of Chez Panisse:

For her pioneering use of sustainable and local ingredients in food service and for the Chez Panisse Foundation’s work in creating the Edible Schoolyard program.

Craig Watson, Vice President of Sustainable Agriculture, Sysco Corporation:

For his work to improve sustainable agriculture and integrated pest management (IPM) practices for Sysco’s food products; programs that have impacted over 921,000 acres of agriculture land.

Kass in the Beard video:

Tickets to the inaugural Leadership Awards Dinner are available for $1,000, and tables of ten are available for $10,000. A portion of each ticket or table purchase is tax-deductible as allowed by law. For event information or to purchase tickets, please contact Bowen & Company at 212.925.0054 or visit

*Photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama


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