Since April, Hub LA has been partnering with Whole Foods Market. The partnership has developed out of a mutual appreciation for the role that food plays in building community. And when Whole Foods began bringing delicious meals to our weekly community lunches and monthly wine downs, we saw the effects immediately: more people showing up, livelier conversations, and a tighter community.
Last week, Whole Foods, Hub LA, and Team Friday used food to bring together another community: the diverse players in the Los Angeles food scene. We hosted a 40-person dinner, Fare Conversations for policy makers, activists, entrepreneurs, chefs, and other innovators working in the food sector. In between courses, presenters shared their unique perspectives on specific issues in the Los Angeles food landscape.
Hub LA was founded upon the theory that individual relationships are the catalyst of meaningful impact and real social change. Fare Conversations provided a microcosm of this practice. It’s our vision for this dinner to be the beginning of a conversation that pivots the food sector in Los Angeles, making space for a more equitable, local, and sustainable ecosystem.
From the formal presentations and the casual dinner conversations, it became clear that Fare Conversations is part of a larger groundswell of innovation in this sector in Los Angeles. This city is ripe with creative thinking on food-related issues, and Fare Conversations is just the beginning of a much larger dialogue. As Alexis Delwiche of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council wisely noted, food is really a vehicle through which we can discuss so many other pressing social and economic issues such as labor rights, race, class, and antitrust policies.
Some highlights of the evening:
-Ari Taymor, chef and co-owner of Alma Restaurant (who was just named Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef 2014), addressed thinking about food “sustainability” in a more comprehensive way not just in terms of sourcing. Taymor mentioned community outreach and education programs as well as thinking about changing restaurant culture. He asked the thought-provoking question: As a restaurant that serves the 1%, how can we use our prestige and press to set an example and to show people that you can have different goals and values?
-Dr. D’Artagnan Scorza, Executive Director of the Social Justice Learning Institute, brought up the issue of equity. He spoke about the need to close up disparities and meet people where their needs are, which means teaching people how to grow food for themselves and eating that food in a healthy way that still honors their culture and heritage.
-Michel Algazi of Fine Foods Group and Food Centricity is creating the US’s first food incubator, helping to expose entrepreneurs to the resources that are available to them. His vision for the incubator, which will open in January 2015 in Lincoln Heights, will allow food makers small in size to get the resources that larger food companies have.
It was inspiring to see the very different lenses through which our speakers and dinner guests think about food issues in Southern California (and beyond) and even more so to see how these perspectives, when interacting, can reveal new solutions for systemic progress. This conversation was just the beginning, and we’re looking forward to tracking the growth and movement in this sphere as the private sector, nonprofits, and local government to move from Fare Conversations to fare collaborations.