Long Beach Fresh’s second annual Foodways Summit took place from June 1-7th. The event series took locals into North, West, and Central Long Beach to explore ways that locals are taking charge of their food, health, economy, and environment.
Primal Alchemy Catering and Events graciously sponsored the entire series. When we started Long Beach Fresh, they were part of a small network of businesses and organizations supporting environmentally responsible food. We’re glad this movement has grown immensely, and that Chef Paul and Dana Buchanan continue to support after 20+ years of pioneering chef-driven farm-to-table cuisine in Long Beach.
The week-long series was a feat in teamwork. Long Beach Fresh shared the organizing duties with an impressive team who brought their individual passions to each event throughout the week. This led to some great insights on how we can move good food forward in a rapidly changing city.
Our opening event, The Color of Food, was coordinated by master gardener and community leader Lee White, sponsored by Long Beach Grocery Cooperative, and graciously hosted by Organic Harvest Gardens. This showcase of the plant-based food revolution in the Afrocentric community got me thinking about the potential to re-define the concept of comfort food – good food is delicious, fresh, and good for the body, soul, and planet. I also enjoyed seeing the synergy between visual, performance, and culinary arts.
This synergy was displayed in colorful dishes by SunBelly Foods, Chef Kyle Johnson, and Chef Rod Dodd alongside music by Senay Kenfe and RaEl, live art by Vladimir Noel. Osunkoya shared a traditional cultural song, and hands-on learning activities kept active minds busy. While the arts are strong in Long Beach, collaborative groups may create richer experiences by using farm and garden space and incorporating thoughtful, nourishing food. Local chefs are eager to share!
We recorded Kyle’s talk as well as our keynote from Kawani Brown, founder of Long Beach Vegan Festival. One attendee gave peek into the event on Youtube as well. The talks highlighted challenges and opportunities in creating conversations and experiences around plant based foods. It dawned on me that these conversations can be more complicated and sensitive in many communities. Even as vegan food makes its way into the mainstream market, it doesn’t necessarily create the transition toward a whole foods and plant-based diet, or a sense of excitement about seasonal eating. On the other hand, the experience of sharing such a meal with friends and family is undeniable.
The Heart of Long Beach was a walking tour of Cambodiatown. Summarized in video by Hector Gomez, this event was hosted and organized by The MAYE Center whose director, Laura Som, created space to dive into Long Beach’s most culturally rich district. We explored several sites, and the recent re-designs of Gladys Ave Urban Farm and MAYE Center created an inviting and lush oasis. Treats from Chef Chad Phuong, Chef Ollie Cigliano, and Chef Navy’s Cambodian Kitchen kept attendees nourished – I was particularly thrilled at the inclusion of locally grown traditional herbs with Gusto artisan bread, the flavors that could be woven together in a Khmer Crepe. Good food is almost always internationally influenced, but also steeped in the geography in which it’s made. We learned about the resilience of the Cambodian community, survivors of the Khmer rouge, struggles with displacement in Long Beach, lack of healthy food access, and the calls for responsible development in the district. Walk Long Beach helped encapsulate some of these issues, which were contrasted by the vibrant markets, shops, farm and garden spaces that were showcased along the way. It became clear to me that if we want to keep Long Beach diverse, we have to work together to bring all voices and assets forward, constantly weaving community in health-promoting spaces.
Sponsorship by the Midtown BID helped us keep the costs down, and we were inspired to see such a diverse crowd of all ages and backgrounds interested in learning from the community.
Seeds of our Future followed at Growing Experience Urban Farm, coordinated by local food activist Allison Slay. We’ll probably always have to get Ofelia (Grandma’s Kitchen) to make fresh organic tortillas, because the taco bar was a success once again! Inventive seasonal flavors including a bunch of local mushrooms donated by Harbor Area Farmers Market and beautiful produce gleaned by Harvest Partners were treated by Chef Sheiya of The Kookery, Grandma’s Kitchen, and Feel Good Salsa.
We had several key contributors to this event, summarized in our executive summary- but my personal takeaways were these:
The regenerative impact of trapping carbon in the soil, especially the ways in which this improves ocean health.
The impact of animal husbandry in connecting both young and old to the natural world.
The need for biostimulation and biodiversity in the soil .
The struggles of growing up with a lack of food access, and how this can lead to inspiring projects as evidenced by Jackie of Growing.
The links between garden education, social cohesiveness, and civic engagement, as discussed by Sheila of Adventures to Dreams, Yancy of Growing Experience, and Kathleen of Moonwater Farm.
Joe Corso of Long Beach Organic’s analogy that eating garden grown produce strikes a chord rather than a single note with conventional produce.
The idea that people learn one bite at a time.
The fact that young creatives enjoy serving something of value to their community, even if the work is very difficult.
The notion that we started LB Fresh because the food movement needed a hub.
The importance of having many small scale projects to support community and environmental health.
Believe it or not, we still had a few events to go! I’ll attempt to tie them together and wrap this thing up!
Between Empowered Kitchens, organized by Khanh Hoang (Company of Khanh) at Casa Chaski’s, Schooled! Organized by Bridget Sramek with support from CaliFarmer at Dominguez Elementary with GroundEducation, and our closing event where we had a regional pechakucha with over a dozen talks, there are certainly more insights worth sharing from these 30+ contributors.
First off, a food system works better when it’s mutually supportive.
This was evidenced in the discussion of entrepreneurs supporting one another in helping get businesses off the ground, as well as helping others stay true to common values. This was nicely expanded on by our event series sponsor, Primal Alchemy in a podcast just after the event.
Secondly, keeping the food movement diverse means honoring our cultural and family roots, because this helps people connect authentically.
When AC Boral (Rice and Shine Eats) announced the coming opening of his new eatery in Long Beach, he noted that his project aims to honor his father’s legacy, while taking Filipino food into East LB for the first time. Dina Feldman’s story was also moving taking us back to her immigrant parents hard work in commercial kitchens and her path to being an entrepreneur. The drivers of these and more food leaders’ ambitions inspire us all and these stories should be told more, and get more attention than whatever the latest fast food trend might be.
Moreover, we must continue to recognize that young people actually care about food!
We need to keep investing in youth and empowering them to be our future leaders. We had Club YCME involved in most of the events, thanks to the coordination of The Growing Experience staff, as well as Adventures to Dreams youth. It’s amazing to see them growing in their ability to create regenerative projects, as well as getting more and more confident in speaking up about what they’d like their local food system to look like. In one event, this included some very sharp recommendations for improving school food.
Lastly, we need to remember that we are stronger when we work together and learn from each other as a region.
We heard from folks working throughout Los Angeles and Riverside counties, from tribal lands to back yards, to farming parks. I’m reminded that we can always do more to look out for our regional food-shed and ensure that there’s adequate support and reciprocity to keep moving good food forward.
Now that the summit is behind us (I can barely believe it’s been over two months!) we are excited to be hosting our first meeting of our new advisory committee.
The committee is comprised of 25 powerful individuals representing Long Beach’s nine city council districts – They’re ready to support and expand our agenda for a more robust, delicious, and representative food economy. This group will be creating working groups and inviting more locals and regional allies to participate, so stay tuned as we work on legalizing homemade food sales, improving school food procurement, and more!