Where does food come from?
If your response to that question was “duh, the grocery store,” have we got a movie for you.
On June 22, 6 p.m., the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce will host a screening of “Ingredients” at Dank Haus, 4740 N. Western Ave. The documentary film explores the local food movement and the collaboration between farmers and chefs to renew America’s food culture.
In the spirit of “Ingredients,” the evening includes a locavore meal served prior to the screening of the movie, followed by a Q&A with local food experts. Panelists cover the spectrum of the food chain: Mick Klug, farmer and owner of Mick Klug Farm; Cleetus Friedman, chef and owner of City Provisions; Tracy Kellner, owner of Provenance Food & Wine; and LaManda Joy, founder of the Peterson Garden Project.
The event is a partnership between the chamber and Jim Javenkoski of Local Food Wisdom; Javenkoski is a food scientist and Lincoln Square resident who’s become a passionate advocate for “Ingredients” and the local food movement.
“I’ve worked in the belly of the beast,” Javenkoski says of stints at General Mills and the National Restaurant Association. “That experience was really an exercise in how money, time and intellectual capital are invested in frivolous ways, like creating yogurt for kids in a toothpaste tube, products marketers have dreamed up with no concern for the health and welfare of consumers.”
Laid off from the NRA in 2009 (seriously, those folks need new initials), Javenkoski opted to use his powers for good. Where his old job focused on food safety, his new venture, Local Food Wisdom, which organizes locavore dinners, emphasizes food sensibility and the notion that we can create food that’s both healthful and profitable. His goal: to elevate food literacy and create an understanding of and appreciation for what locally-grown food means to the environment and the economy.
“Food is much more than a purchase transaction, it’s an investment in the community,” he says. “It’s important that people begin to
realize that food is so essential to our being in terms of culture, our connections to places nearby and people working to produce our food.”
To Javenkoski, “Ingredients” encapsulates the potential of the local food movement. He stumbled across the documentary’s website while the film was still in production and eventually struck up a correspondence with the movie’s producer and cinematographer, Brian Kimmel, who previously worked on the PBS series “The Kitchen Sessions With Charlie Trotter.”
“It’s the opposite of ‘Food Inc.,’” Javenkoski explains. Where “Food Inc.” (aka the “Monsanto is the devil” movie) uncovers the underbelly of Big Agriculture, “Ingredients” looks at success stories between farmers and chefs.
“It doesn’t twist your arm,” he says. Rather the movie serves as a catalyst for self learning, which Javenkoski hopes will spark a higher commitment to local food, “whatever that means for that person.”
Nothing if not a kinder, gentler evangelist, Javenkoski promotes a broad definition of “local” food, ranging from the decision to purchase food grown within a specific radius from one’s home, to shopping farmers markets, to swapping out Chilean produce for whatever’s seasonal in the Midwest. “I let people connect the dots for themselves and travel at their own pace,” he says.
While he may be a bit biased, Javenkoski believes Lincoln Square is already ahead of the curve. He points to the Square’s new community garden, farmers markets (Tuesday morning and Thursday night) and businesses like City Provisions (“What Cleetus Friedman has done is a model for the new food economy”), as evidence of a commitment to sustainability and a willingness to become reacquainted with the food system. In a interview with NBC-5, Jason Kraus, vice president of the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce, noted that all of these initiatives, including the “Ingredients” screening, are a “testament to what the residents are asking for.”
“Given what’s going on with the climate and the economy, people need to start realizing that they can’t take for granted that food will always be widely available and cheap,” Javenkoski says. “Smart phones and tablet computers are irrelevant. What matters is food.”
More about the “Ingredients” screening: Tickets are $30 for adults and $10 for kids. Dinner includes grass-fed beef burgers provide by The Grafton, salad and pound cake from City Provisions, snow cones by Jo Snow Syrups and local popcorn and wines from Provenance. Early bird tickets also include discounts from the various sponsors: $5 off Mick Klug purchase, 10% off purchase at City Provisions, 15% off purchase at Provenance, $10 off a $30 tab at The Grafton.