Last night my colleague Emily Kaiser and I gondola'd to the top of Aspen Mountain for a dinner benefiting the Wholesome Wave Foundation, the 2008 recipient of F&W's Grow for Good campaign. We enjoyed a local-minded meal prepared by chefs Roy Yamaguchi, Hung Huyhn (Top Chef's 2007 winner), Ryan Hardy and Michel Nischan, who founded Wholesome Wave last year.
The dinner was great--especially Nischan's meatloaf, a staple at his Westport, Connecticut restaurant--but I left most excited about Wholesome Wave's potential. Buzz about the organization is already spreading around Aspen; I've been asked at least a dozen times today what it's all about. Here's my crib sheet:
- Nischan started the foundation as a way to bring sustainable, locally grown foods to as many people as possible, regardless of economic background. Wholesome Wave is already doing this in a few very innovative ways:
- Wholesome Wave has opened farmers markets in two affluent Connecticut communities--Westport and Fairfield--which allows local farmers to make enough profit to offer the same produce at a deep discount to low-income urban communities.
- Through its Green Wave Farm-to-College program, the foundation has created an innovative business model that links farmers with college cafeterias. Green Wave purchases surplus crops from farmers, turns it into prepared food products, then sells them to the college. Last year's pilot project at Vassar was a huge success; 50,000 pounds of tomatoes were turned into sauces, soups and salsas. NYU and a few other East Coast schools have signed on for this year's program. Nischan hopes this business model will spread across the country and down through the school systems.
- Wholesome Wave's Sustainable Mentorship program teaches high school students the benefits of eating locally; the students then visit elementary and middle schools and pass on the knowledge.
This year, F&W is committed to raising money for Wholesome Wave. We'd love for you to join us. You can donate directly at our site, and we're also hosting an online auction full of incredible items, including dinner prepared by Top Chef contestants and a ton of other great eating and drinking experiences.