If there’s one overarching thought about SXSW, a lot is going on. Day in and day out, the festival features some of the hottest musical acts emerging today. Still, there are also star-studded movie premiers, along with tech hopefuls looking to blow our minds with the next generation of applications meant to improve or change our lives. But then there are the panels that are engineered to make a difference and give voice to the challenges we’re collectively working to solve.  

The All Things Food event was a deep dive into the world of how we look at food, from not just a “this pizza is delicious” lens but through one that discusses the social ramifications of essential topics like food access, sustainable seafood, and how we make changes to the American food system so that all people have something on their tables come dinner time. With its beautiful panoramas at the stunning Barr Mansion, the All Things Food event was one of those special SXSW curations that come together like lock and key. As children roamed the grounds and people snapped selfies against the elegant backdrops, the site’s farmhouse held some of the most critical discussions of the day, specifically around food equality.  

The Cook’s Nook CEO and founder, Joi Chevalier, was a featured guest alongside other culinary minds like Michel Nischan, the Executive Director of Wholesome Wave, and Shreela V. Sharma, who’s the Director at the Center for Health Equity at the University of Houston, and Melanie McAfee, Owner of the Barr Mansion.

Throughout the talk, every seat was packed as the panel discussed why food access is important, but also the notion that food is medicine, that what we put into our bodies does matter, and how lousy food affects our health, just the same as how if we eat something healthy, it does the inverse. The discussions were lively and filled with laughter, but also stamping poignant issues about food access and how there’s a universal need to ensure the impact of food on our lives.  

A critical takeaway from the event was that the mission and message of food is that medicine is legitimate. People want to know more about how food affects our bodies and how scarfing down the double cheeseburger from the drive-through window may not be the best choice vs. a loaded salad. It may seem like a simple choice, but for many, that burger is their only option based on food availability or financial constraints.  

Through a diverse crowd of those dressed to the nines while others rocked cowboy couture, the crowd soaked in the panel’s opinions. It stayed engaged through the messages that we need to do better for everyone when it comes time to find how to ensure access to healthy foods, no matter the location. One of the biggest takeaways from the event was that challenging the status quo is important, that food should be good, no matter their financial strata, and through these conversations, championing that food shouldn’t be political, that access to healthy food shouldn’t be a red or blue issue, but a common ground all should demand for themselves and their neighbors. 

The consensus was clear: advocating for food equity transcends political divides and necessitates collective action. The event served as a catalyst for challenging entrenched norms and advocating for a more equitable food system that caters to all individuals, regardless of socioeconomic status. 

By leveraging platforms like SXSW, we amplify the message of food equity on a global scale, fostering dialogue and driving positive change. As we continue this journey, let us harness the collective power of advocacy and collaboration to create a world where access to healthy food is a universal right, not a privilege. 

The Cook’s Nook’s mission is continually dedicated to all these practices, and being a part of such a special event only empowers the message. What SXSW does is connect people globally to share a message, no matter what format, and with the continued dedication and respect to food equity, panels like these only strengthen the broadcast to everyone. 

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