- Geoff L. Johnson
SAVANNAH loves and cares about its food, and this year's Food Day Festival proves it.
The festival happens October 24 at Daffin Park. Festivities include more than 25 free workshops, educational activities for kids, and plenty of live music.
Well FED Savannah, a magazine focused on food culture in the city, has hosted the festival for five straight years. Its executive director Rene Teran also founded the festival.
“The Savannah Food Day Festival is empowering Savannah community’s awareness and desire for more local, healthy, and sustainable food," Teran says.
"Every year, there is an increasing variety of organizations and businesses that is making this movement grow. It’s only a matter of time before Savannah takes the lead as one of the most progressive cities in the South that puts healthy, sustainable food at the forefront, joining other major metropolitan cities in this nationwide movement."
Savannah has already taken the lead in one way: our city's festival is the largest Food Day celebration in America and has held that honor all of its five years.
Food Day is a nationwide movement in partnership with the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and focuses on healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. Celebrations are held all across the country on October 24 in the interest of discussing food issues and enacting change.
Perhaps a reason for the local festival's popularity is its strength in discussion and enactment.
New this year is the Savannah Chatham Food Policy Council's forum with the mayoral candidates, dreamed up by Teran this year in conjunction with the election.
"Primarily, we have a set of questions that we're going to ask each of the candidates that have accepted," explains the Council's Blake Caldwell.
"They primarily relate to issues around food and food access—food access is our main concern."
The mayoral hopefuls likely aren't answering questions about food access at the host of other forums around town, but these are still questions that need to be asked.
"One of the questions we're going to ask is about line item support in the city budget to encourage community gardens," says Caldwell.
The city currently sponsors the Community Garden Initiative, where people can submit an application and garden on city or FEMA property.
"We have four or five gardens out in the community doing this and they're very successful," says Caldwell. "It's very cool; not many cities have accomplished this."
However, the Council envisions more community gardening and hopes that the mayor elected in just a few weeks can help.
"The money goes to things like putting in the water hookup—you can't garden without water—and when you tap into the city water you need to put in a meter," says Caldwell.
"The city previously did have a small amount of funds to help with that, but now the money is empty, so we're hoping the new mayor would support a small line item in the budget for the community garden program."
Another exciting highlight of the festival is the Farm Truck 912, a new initiative by the Forsyth Farmers Market.
Just don't call it a food truck, because it isn't one.
"The difference is that we will never serve hot, ready-to-eat foods," clarifies Teri Schell from the Forsyth Farmers Market.
"Instead, we are a mobile farmers' market and will be bringing whole food ingredients — produce, meat, dairy —to be purchased and taken home to use to cook meals."
In the interest of accessible food, Farm Truck 912 also accepts SNAP/EBT benefits.
"Our goal is to serve neighborhoods with the least access to healthy fruits and vegetables," says Schell.
That's a prime missive of this festival, and it seems that more Savannahians are on board every year.
"My favorite part about doing this event each year is witnessing a tradition being born in Savannah that is being cultivated by our local community," says Teran.