Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fab Food On A Food Stamps Budget: Sam Kass & The Great American Family Dinner Challenge

Chefs Tom Colicchio, Jose Andres & other James Beard Award winners join cooking showcase events at first-ever Summit hosted by Partnership for a Healthier America...
White House Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass will be joined on Tuesday, Nov. 29 by acclaimed chefs, including Top Chef host Tom Colicchio of New York, Boston's Ming Tsai of Blue Ginger restaurant, and Washington, DC's Jose Andres for two exciting cooking events during the inaugural Building A Healthier Future Summit from Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA). The James Beard Foundation is partnering to support the cooking showcases, and all the participating chefs are winners of the much-coveted Beard Awards, regarded as the Oscars of the food world. (Kass, above)

PHA is the non-profit foundation created to support First Lady Obama's Let's Move! campaign, and the conference will focus on streamlining a coordinated national agenda for battling childhood obesity. Mrs. Obama serves as honorary chairwoman of PHA. She will give the keynote address during the Summit's second day, on Wednesday, Nov. 30. It will be held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC.

On the first day, Kass will emcee The Great American Family Dinner Challenge, a cookoff that pits two teams of chefs against each other to create a fabulous dinner on the kind of budget that's used by those participating in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as Food Stamps. The chefs will have $10 of ingredients and just thirty minutes to dazzle the judges. Colicchio and chef Maria Hines of Tilth restaurant in Seattle will wield their knives against Tsai and chef Holly Smith of Cafe Juanita in Kirkland, WA.

The average monthly household benefit for America's 45.1 million Food Stamp recipients in June was $282.31, according to USDA. The judges will be two families that have won a sweepstakes from Parents and Ser Padres magazines, co-sponsors of the event.

Three-course gourmet meals for $4.50/person...
The hundreds of expected summit attendees will experience the culinary handiwork of the other participating Beard Award winners. Andres will be joined by chefs Floyd Cardoz of New York's Tabla restaurant, Koren Grieveson of Chicago's Avec restaurant, and Anne Quatrano of Atlanta's Bacchanalia restaurant to create healthy, three-course meals that cost just $4.50 per person, an approximation of what the "average American" spends on dinner, according to PHA.

"Part of overcoming the obesity crisis in this country is helping individuals and families understand that healthy food can be affordable, quick to make and also really tasty," said PHA spokesman Drew Nannis. "These chefs have set the bar for what it means to prepare meals, and we're thrilled that they are willing to see if they can do what millions of families do every day in kitchens across the country: Put a healthy, delicious, affordable meal on the table--fast."

The Beard Foundation recently crowned Mrs. Obama with one of its inaugural Leadership Awards, which recognize "visionaries in the business, government and education sectors responsible for creating a healthier, safer, and more sustainable food world."

The Summit...
Featured speakers at the Summit include PHA honorary vice-chairs Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, NJ, and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Breakout sessions will include tracks focused on elements of the Let's Move! campaign: Making childcare healthier for children; creating opportunities for people to buy healthier foods in supermarkets; increasing physical activity; and working with schools to create a healthier learning environment.

Among other activities, PHA, chaired by Dr. James Gavin III, is responsible for micromanaging the White House partnerships with the private sector for the Let's Move! campaign. Through Memos of Understanding, PHA is overseeing the commitments from Walmart and other grocers to build markets in food deserts, as well as the commitment from Darden Restaurants, Inc., the largest chain restaurant corporation in the US, to revamp its menus over the next decade. (Above: Mrs. Obama during the Darden announcement)

The two-day Summit, Nov. 29-30, is the first from PHA. More on Let's Move is at Letsmove.gov...or this blog.

*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama