Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chicago: Mayors, Experts Talk Policy At Let's Move! Food Desert Summit Lunch

At mk The Restaurant, a four-course lunch menu spotlights sustainable local agriculture as Sam Kass and Mayor Emanuel lead policy discussion...
UPDATE: CLICK HERE for a full post about the day's events
During the first-ever Let's Move! food desert summit in Chicago on Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel hosted a luncheon at mk The Restaurant. Joined by Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass and the eight Mayors invited to the summit, Emanuel led a policy confab over a four-course lunch that starred organic and sustainably sourced foods. Lunch came after the Mayors met with Kass, Emanule and Obama Administration officials for a discussion of improving community food access during a roundtable at Iron Street Urban Farm, the Chicago headquarters for Growing Power, run by Erika Allen. The lunch was in mk's airy atrium dining room, where guests were seated at one long table. (Above: Kass, at left, was seated at the center of the table beside Emanuel)

The Mayoral group was joined by urban farmers and food access advocates, and the discussion focused on the importance of creating and supporting policies for urban agriculture in an effort to eliminate food deserts. First Lady Michelle Obama has a goal of eradicating America's food deserts by 2017, and it will "absolutely" be achieved, according to Kass. The Mayors, Kass and Emanuel joined Mrs. Obama at a Walgreens following the lunch, where she closed the summit with remarks. (Above: Emanuel speaks about his bill to support urban agriculture; Kass is at left; Let's Move! Executive Director Judy Palfrey is second from Emanuel's right)

Owned by executive chef Michael Kornick, mk utilizes produce and fish grown in urban agriculture projects. The lunch menu went further afield, and featured Snake River sturgeon, Maine diver scallops, accompanied by a heady selection of locally grown vegetables (full menu, below).

A video screen was set up at one end of the table, and there were presentations about urban farming projects during the meal. Emanuel discussed his new bill that supports urban agriculture, while Allen spoke about Chicago's green economy and improving food access. The Mayors stood and discussed initiatives in their communities, too. (Above: Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak speaks about the importance of supporting farms that are local to cities)

Among the speakers were John Edel from Chicago's The Plant, who spoke about vertical farming. The organization is a nonprofit dedicated to promoting sustainable food production, entrepreneurship, and building reuse through education, research and development. It is headquartered in a 93,500 sq. ft. retired meatpacking facility, which is being transformed into a net-zero energy vertical farm.

Rick Bayless, chef/owner of Chicago's Topolobampo and Frontera Grill, and founder of the Frontera Foundation, discussed urban agriculture. Bayless was the second guest chef at the White House for a State Dinner, joining the White House chefs in 2010 to create the menu in honor of Mexico's President Felipe Calderon. (Above: Kass, his back to the camera, listens as Bayless speaks to the group)

Emmanuel Pratt, executive director of Sweet Water Organics (SWO) in Milwaukee, WI, spoke about aquaponics. SWO is an urban fish and vegetable farm started in 2008, and located in a former crane factory that has been transformed into an "urban wetland." SWO grows various lettuce crops and basil, watercress, tomatoes, peppers, chard, and spinach, and raises tilapia and perch.

The Mayors invited to the summit included Joseph Curtatone of Somerville, MA; R. T. Rybak of Minneapolis, MN; Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City, OK; Heather Hudson of Greenville, MS; Willis "Chip" Johnson of Hernando, MS; Manuel Lozano of Baldwin Park, CA; Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, WI; and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore, MD. (Above: Erika Allen makes remarks; Kass and Emanuel are at right)

Attending the lunch from the Obama Administration were Let's Move! Executive Director Dr. Judy Palfrey; HHS’s Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard Koh, and Matt Josephs with the US Department of Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund.

Food Access Summit Lunch

Maine diver sea scallops
Nichols farm shallot
Truffled brussels sprouts
Comer Gardens peppercress

Pumpkin bisque
Green Acres red kuri squash bisque Pumpkin seed brittle

Snake River sturgeon
Green Acres spaghetti squash,
Kilgus Dairy juniper yogurt
City Farms nasturtium

Mick Klug deep dish apple pie
Taffy apple semifreddo

Above: The dessert in all its glory.

Information: mk The Restaurant is at located at 868 N. Franklin, Chicago, Illinois. Phone: (312) 482-9179.

*Photos courtesy of mk The Restaurant. Click HERE for more photos from the event.

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