Using Local/Sustainable Foods for Every Day Meals - A Green Tables Wrap-up from the Annual LDEI National Conference

By Molly Reams Thompson (Cleveland)
and Heather Hunter (San Antonio)

What if one conversation could literally change the course of a community environmentally, socially, and economically? The Green Tables team set out to do just that by serving up a generous helping of interesting conversation at the annual Saturday morning breakfast on October 26, 2013.

extraordinary women representing the perspectives of policy and community, producer/retail, restaurant/chef and community service/nutrition perspectives.  Whether  born and/or raised in the food community, some thing or event - or series of events - led each of the participants down the path to making a difference and participating in a vibrant local food system.

different regions within Texas were represented in this lively presentation.

common threads emerged from the conversation as ways to strengthen and change the conversation about local food: Communication; collaboration; and education.

simple words, Green Tables, convey an important mission within the LDEI community.

Finally, while each panel expert revealed a distinct journey of food, they all converged into One shared commitment to change the way that people think about, relate to, and consume food.

This year's theme, "Serving Local Foods for Everyday Meals," was established by  committee members Wendy Taggert (Dallas-Ft. Worth), Shubhra Ramenini (Houston), Julia Rosenfeld (San Antonio), Heather Hunter (San Antonio), Molly Kaminski (Houston), Drew Faulkner (Washington, DC), and Molly Thompson (Cleveland), local foods advocate who also served as the morning's moderator.  Others who were integral but worked behind the scenes included GT Chairs Linda Geren and Lynn Fredericks, as well as Ashley James (creator of the GT blog and Pinterest sites).

The panel featured four stars of Texas
one shining example from each of the Texas chapters and included:

  • Wendy Taggert, Dallas-Fort Worth Dame and co-founder of Burgundy Pasture Beef, demonstrated not only the power of producing a dry-aged beef but also networking with other local producers to offer a range of superior products for everyday meals. 
  • San Antonio Dame Heather Hunter, founder of Cowgirl Granola and the Quarry Farmers Market, and Silbia Esparza, executive director of Time Dollar, shared the impact of their unique partnership whereby surplus produce and other fine edibles are donated to the food pantry each week.
  • Houston chef, Monica Pope, shared how her commitment to real food brings together people in her local community as well as celebrities from around the world.
  • Ronda Rutledge, executive director of Austins Sustainable Food Center (also the organization that hosted the Day of Service on Food Day on October 24) enlightened the audience about the importance of access to local food in any community.
One of the biggest barriers to getting people to shift their perspective on what local food provides is that they dont immediately see the connection between eating locally and the bottom line. This panel helped to shed a light on different ways that local food impacts our communities.  With growers, producers, and educators all seated at the table, attendees were treated to a well-rounded discussion of a topic that is impacting communities all around the globe.  Each speaker each gave her own unique perspective from all across the farm to table continuum on the value of local foods and what it provides for their own communities.

Following the panel, there was an outpouring of interest and support.  One Dame was so moved she wrote a check on the spot to support Silbia Esparza's Time Dollar Community Connections program in San Antonio.

As arbiters of excellence in fine food, beverage and hospitality, it is incumbent upon us as Dames to be champions of change in the food communities in which we live.  Not sure how you can make a difference in your own back yard?  Here are a few ideas to plant the seeds of change regarding food in your community:

  • Consider one thing you would change about the current conversation people in your community have about local food.
  • Be unapologetically present when it comes to your food.
  • Contemplate one food discovery you'd like your community to make and share about it with your friends, family and neighbors.
Hungry for more? Please visit the Green Tables page on the LDEI website as well as the new blog!