Good food brings people together. Local, organic food sustains the earth. So why not unite people behind the climate change-solving potential of sustainable, farm-to-table food? This was the thinking behind the Will Steger Foundation’s winter fundraising series, Dine for Climate. At pioneering local food restaurants including Birchwood Cafe, French Meadow Bakery & Cafe, Spoonriver and Lucia’s, we helped patrons connect the dots between agriculture, our food system, and climate change.
The food choices we make, while often overlooked when it comes to addressing climate change, exert a considerable influence over the way that food travels from the farm to our forks – we can choose either to buy food that has been planted in deforested monocultures, bathed in oil-based pesticides and transported thousands of miles, or we can buy our food from the co-ops and restaurants that source from local farmers harvesting diversified fields of fresh, organically grown produce. The choice seems simple when you consider the differences in climate and environmental impacts of these contrasting food systems.
The message to Twin Cities diners? Eating local is not only delicious, as these restaurants’ regulars well know; choosing sustainable, locally-sourced food helps to support carbon-sequestering soils, a lower carbon “foodprint,” and more resilient forms of agriculture that will be able to better withstand extreme weather events linked to climate change. The outpouring of support from the public was demonstrated at our Dine for Climate events.
Locals lined up outside Birchwood on a chilly November evening, waiting for the doors to open at 5:00 so they could enjoy the perennially popular savory waffle and dine for climate. Minneapolitans and St. Paulites filled both French Meadow locations a month later, with many dining for climate on the featured special of Will Steger Arctic Char. Loyal supporters braved blizzard conditions to savor Spoonriver’s dine for climate offerings, including local wine from Alexis Bailey Vineyards in early January. And at our last event, Lucia Watson returned to her recently sold restaurant to greet those dining for climate with another phenomenal weekly menu of seasonal specialties.
All in all, hundreds of patrons participated in this exceptionally delicious climate change solution, proving that the roots of a local and sustainable food supply are firmly in place in the Twin Cities. While too often people feel helpless to address climate change, and feel unconcerned about where their food is coming from, the community that connected around Dine for Climate provided participants with a powerful antidote to apathy. As Michael Pollan has said, “to eat with a fuller consciousness of all that is at stake might sound like a burden, but in practice few things in life can afford quite as much satisfaction.”
Katie Siegner is communications coordinator for the Will Steger Foundation.