Let's just get something out of the way before I delve in to the Good Food Awards. We all understand that where we put our money says a lot about what we are willing to support, right? Now, I understand that my audience is likely comprised of people that have the ability to at least, on occasion, buy higher priced items that fit an ideal of sustainability. This isn't a blanket statement that I think everyone can afford to eat this way nor is this a judgement on those that can't and while I feel that good food should be more affordable, my experience also lets me know that producers are working hard without much to take care of their own families.That being said, I understand the need for survival and for not feeling guilty about just living. Ok, let's move on.
I was extremely fortunate to be hired by a company (Quince and Apple) that was a finalist and ultimately a winner of a Good Food Award this year so I got to be a part of a movement of retailers and producers committed to selling and creating foods that are Tasty, Authentic, and Responsible. These are the main criteria for entry in to judging. Things like seasonality, fair compensation within the production line, and growing practices that promote healthy soils are the basis of the standards.
Let's start from the beginning.
The Good Food Foundation is the non-profit, organizing force behind the Good Food Awards. This foundation uses a collaborative approach to support the sustainable food movement. By using different experiences and knowledge bases, they are able to look at new ways of engaging people and finding better ways of feeding our communities. Using focused events and strategic models, they aim to achieve their base goals of promoting collaboration within the food movement, building public demand for Good Food, and creating new leaders in the food movement.
From there they have built a Good Food Merchants Guild that bridges the gap between producers and buyers. It was established 2012 and has specific criteria for producers to be involved. Producers often have a hard time finding the right avenues to get their products on to the shelf so being a part of the Guild helps connect the dots between producers and buyers. This is linked to the Good Food Retailers Collaborative, a group of independent retailers that have made the commitment to support American craft producers. Being able to put your product in front of the right buyer helps take a lot of the foot work out of being a small producer. They are the basis of the financial support for the Good Food Awards and they co-host the three Good Food Mercantiles each year. They also have an annual retreat where they convene and use each others experiences to further strengthen business operations.
The Good Food Awards is the culmination of all that effort. It's the time to celebrate the hard work of the producers and retailers. It is not your typical awards ceremony though. The food is outstanding since everything being served is made using the winners of awards and it is not uncommon to hear an uplifting speech from a farmer from Georgia. It also means that "black tie" could very well be a bolo tie and a new pair of Wranglers.
This was my first time going to the awards ceremony and I'm glad I did. The speeches this year really touched on how we can better ourselves in the food industry and even though we may be doing a lot of things right, we can and HAVE to do better. I also got to see a lot of producers that I really care about get the recognition for doing business in sustainable ways that their hard work so desperately deserves.
The Saturday after the Good Food Awards was the Good Food Mercantile which is basically a trade show for the products being represented. It's a chance for buyers to walk around to taste the products and to make the connections with the producers. The Fancy Food Show can be super overwhelming for a lot of people so this smaller more concentrated event can help weed through the vendors that buyers really want to connect with. There is also the added value of the represented vendors already being vetted by the Good Food Foundation so fewer questions about business practices need to be made. Sunday held the Good Food Marketplace where producers were actually selling their products. We were already at the Fancy Food Show so I didn't participate in that.
Got it? Ok, so now we know that there is a coordinated effort in place to help bring good food to the people who want it and need it. Obviously, this isn't the only effort out there but at this point I feel like the more avenues we have to get good food on the shelf, the better we all are and the more we can use that knowledge to make more educated buying decisions. You can look for the little gold medal sticker on products that have won an award this year. You can also look at the websites linked throughout this blog post to find winners in your area.
In an effort to hone my photography skills, I decided to do a little photo shoot with some of my favorite products that won a Good Food Award this year. These products can be found in a lot of your local markets around the country. Keep an eye out for them when you are out shopping, you'll be supporting businesses that are working hard to create a culture of good food and great business practices!
(Working for Quince and Apple has many perks! One of which is getting free product. Everything else was bought and paid for by me.)