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James Beard Foundation calls on independent restaurants to unite for climate action

The James Beard Foundation, known for its prestigious culinary awards, has turned its attention to less celebratory matters: the climate crisis. This week, the foundation is launching Climate Solutions for Restaurant Survival — a campaign seeking to marshal the influence and knowledge of chefs across the US to confront the environmental challenges that threaten their livelihoods and the communities they sustain.

Underscoring the urgent need to act is a report by the Global Food Institute at George Washington University. JBF asked researchers to examine the economic impact of climate change on independent restaurants, which are inherently more vulnerable to volatility than large chains. As record temperatures, droughts and extreme rainfall disrupt harvests, restaurants increasingly face ingredient shortages and erratic price swings. GW's report cites a prediction that food price increases will cause revenues for independent restaurants to start falling by 2027.

The effects of climate change aren't limited to supply. James Beard Award-winning chef Mary Sue Milliken gives an example of how demand can be impacted, too: "A challenge that happens a lot is we will be prepared for a big weekend, because we project sales based on the rhythms of the businesses' sales, and then there will be a wildfire and the concentration of smoke will be so severe, people will opt not to leave their homes. We get stuck with food, beverage and labor bills but no sales to offset them."

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Instead of focusing on actions individual restaurants can take, the James Beard Foundation is emphasizing the need for collective effort. It's calling on chefs to use their influence, make themselves heard and push local, state and federal governments to act now. The foundation will provide advocacy training, connect chefs to policymakers and organize events and roundtable discussions to amplify the voices of restaurants and the farmers they work with.

Preventing the climate crisis from worsening requires systemic change and swift, radical interventions, not hesitant baby steps. That's a given. JBF's new campaign demonstrates how businesses can unite to educate and convince elected officials and lawmakers to make haste. Is your brand partnering with others in your industry to safeguard our collective future?