Owner Leah Lawson Helps Put ‘Good Food on Every Table!’

Like a lot of people who become Chicago Market Owners, Leah Lawson and her husband, Ben Nunez, simply want to feed themselves and their kids, Mirabella and Kai, healthy, local, organic and sustainable foods at a competitive price.

And in her professional capacity as Executive Programs Manager at FamilyFarmed, a Chicago-based nonprofit that’s considered a national leader in building the Good Food movement,

Leah Lawson thought the Co-op’s model made good business sense.

That’s why she became one of Chicago Market’s early adopters…clocking in at Owner #217.

In a phrase, FamilyFarmed aims to put “Good food on every table!” Laser-focused on developing regional and sustainable food systems, the organization’s impact has been wide and deep. Here are just a few highlights:

* Founded and produces the Good Food EXPO – America’s longest-running sustainable and local food trade show (at UIC Forum in Chicago March 23-24!)

* Incubates and helps launch artisanal and other good-food businesses through its Good Food Accelerator program

* Delivers Farmer Training programs for both beginning and experienced farmers nationwide that includes technical assistance around the economics and food safety imperatives of the “good food” marketplace

* Builds public and private partnerships that help regional food systems deliver benefits to farmers, consumers and businesses alike

Chicago Market Board President Grant Kessler describes Leah as “an active change-maker in the Chicago foodshed” in her role at FamilyFarmed. One of the ways she earned that moniker is through the development of its “Good Food is Good Medicine” initiative.

“Putting ‘good food on every table’ isn’t just a marketing phrase at FamilyFarmed – it’s central to everything we do,” Leah says. “Good Food is Good Medicine aims to harness what is known about the impact of good food on health outcomes, and then create and share culturally relevant tools that inspire people to eat so they can be healthier.”

Leah’s stewardship of this initiative is personal, as well.

“Eating the standard American diet growing up -- heavily laden with processed foods and soda pop – I suffered from a range of health problems,” she recounts. “In truth, I didn’t realize people drank water as a beverage until I was in my 20s! Making the transition to good food habits was a slow and difficult process for me. That’s part of what motivates me to help others learn how to do it better.”

Cultural relevancy is central to the initiative. Leah will be working directly with community organizations to create a dialogue about how FamilyFarmed can help community members up the nutritional ante of their favorite or staple ethnic cuisine. Here, too, Leah mines her personal experience as an object lesson.

“Ben is from the Philippines, and one of that cuisine’s go-to staples is pancit, a noodle dish that’s typically heavy on starch – and lean on veggies,” she says. “As an example, the Good Food is Good Medicine initiative will create and disseminate easy-to-implement ideas for creating a healthier, more veggie-rich version of this satisfying comfort-food meal.”

The initiative, which is focusing its outreach on underserved communities with high rates of diet-related illness, is co-led by FamilyFarmed Board Chair Charlotte Flinn and FamilyFarmed Board member, Adam B. Murphy, MD, MBA. Ms. Flinn is President of Flinn Consultants, a firm that helps clients achieve and sustain optimum levels of business, leadership and organizational effectiveness. Dr. Murphy is an Assistant Professor at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, an academic urologist and a researcher who studies the health disparities faced by African-Americans and other ethnic minorities.

Like most everything at FF, the Good Food is Good Medicine initiative will leverage its network of thought leaders, community organizations, Good Food activists and public/private partnerships to make the biggest possible impact.

Want a head start? FamilyFarmed’s Good Food EXPO will feature several panel discussions on how good food can be good medicine during its FREE Festival and Marketplace Saturday, March 24.

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