James Beard Foundation Announces 2015 Leadership Award Winners

Five chefs, farmers and activists who have made exemplary strides in creating healthy, safe and sustainable food options are recognized with this prestigious award.

by Cari Jorgensen

The James Beard Foundation, an organization that focuses on honoring, nurturing and celebrating America’s diverse culinary heritage, announced the recipients of their fifth annual James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards earlier this month.

The JBF Leadership Awards are held every fall and look at not only the initiatives its recipients have set forth, but also their body of work and what they’ve achieved throughout their lifetime. This year’s recipients were chosen based on their innovative approaches, work excellence and how much their work impacted either a community or the nation as a whole. This year, JBF is honoring these five individuals.

1. Don Bustos

Farmer and Co-Director, American Friends Service Committee

Bustos was selected because of the work he’s done in support of the education and rights of farmers, as well as the effort he’s made to make sure farmers of diverse ethnic backgrounds are included in the national food movement.

2. Eliot Coleman

Farmer, Author, Agricultural Researcher, and Educator

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Coleman has been named an honoree of this year’s awards due to the impact he’s had on the industry and America’s food system as a result of his 40 years of work, which include extensive writings on organic agriculture as well as innovative farming techniques. He’s the owner of Four Season Farm in Maine, which has been nationally recognized as a model for small-scale agriculture, and is the author of several books, including The New Organic Grower (Chelsea Green, 1995) and Four Season Harvest (Chelsea Green, 1999).

3. Saru Jayaraman

Co-Founder and Co-Director, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United); Director, Food Labor Research Center at University of California, Berkeley

James Beard Foundation Announces 2015 Leadership Award Winners

Jayaraman received this award for her research, policy work and efforts she’s made to ensure all restaurant employees work in fair and just environments. She’s the author of Behind the Kitchen Door (ILR Press, 2014), which takes a look at the poor conditions in which America’s restaurant workers work and how it affects the food that ends up on the table. 

4. Sam Kass

Former Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition, The White House


James Beard Foundation Announces 2015 Leadership Award Winners 

Kass has worked on food-policy initiatives nationwide that place focus on nutritious and sustainable ingredients. He’s made in raising awareness of childhood nutrition issues, hunger and obesity. In addition to serving as the Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition at the White House, he served as executive director of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” fitness initiative. In his six years at the White House, he helped install a kitchen garden, supervised beehives and brewed the White House’s own honey brown ale. (Talk about a micro-brew!) 

5. Bryant Terry

Chef, Author, Food Justice Activist


Terry has led efforts in empowering of youth to actively create their own just, healthy and sustainable food system, as well as raising awareness of food-justice issues. He serves as Chef in Residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, and his latest cookbook Afro-Vegan (Ten Speed Press, 2014) was named one of Amazon’s top cookbooks of 2014.  

“We are honored to recognize these five innovators for the work they do to better our food system,” says Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation. “This year’s group sheds light on a complex array of issues—support of farmers’ rights and education, organic agriculture, just workplace environments for restaurant employees, childhood obesity and hunger, and the empowerment of youth on food justice issues. Thanks to these honorees’ profound impact, our food world is healthier, safer, and more sustainable.”

The honorees will receive their award on October 19, 2015, as part of JBF’s Sixth Annual Food Conference. The general public is invited to attend the awards dinner. Tickets are available for $1,000. For those already attending the food conference, tickets for the dinner are $500. Tables of 10 may be purchased for $10,000.

For more information, visit jbffoodconference.org or jbfleadershipawards.org.


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