The Eat Well Guide v2.0: Finding SOLE food on the road

Bonnie P.: One of the things I have enjoyed most about starting this blog is the number of people it has brought me into contact with who are passionate about finding, supporting, and popularizing SOLE food. Here at the Ethicurean, we’re trying to create an online hub for that community in various ways (more about that later). I first met Leslie Hatfield, who has written the first of what will be several guest posts below, on the Internet through her blogging for Sustainable Table and then later on the Eat Well Guided Tour. Knowing about the nerve injury that has prevented me from serving up the Ethicurean’s typing-intensive news Digests lately, she has kindly offered to help out the busy team until I recover. I have asked her to update you all first on the really cool stuff our pals over at the Eat Well Guide are up to. Here’s Leslie.

Greetings Ethicureans. I’ll be filling in here for the next little while, helping the team get out some of those Digests you’ve been craving.

Who am I? A picky eater by nature, freelance writer and new media/PR consultant by trade, I’m living in Baltimore, Maryland, having arrived here by way of Brooklyn from the Pacific Northwest. Before I moved from New York, I promoted and blogged for Sustainable Table, most notably during last summer’s Eat Well Guided Tour of America, which you may remember from the Ethicurean’s coverage. I’m now consulting for Eat Well, the NY-based nonprofit consumer education program (a program of GRACE) and keeper of the Eat Well Guide, a ZIP-code searchable directory of thousands of listings of family farms, restaurants, food co-ops, farmers markets and other purveyors of local, sustainably produced (or, to borrow a term from the Ethicureans, SOLE) food throughout the U.S. and Canada.

I’d like to give you with a taste of what Eat Well has in store this year. Since emerging as an independent program under the leadership of a new director, Destin Joy Layne, the team there has been working feverishly to develop some new tools to make it easier for North Americans to find good food. Among the new developments, all of which should be on the internets in time for summer:

Eat Well Everywhere A new, interactive mapping feature (think Eat Well Guide meets Mapquest, and then some). You’ll be able to create a route from point A to point B, choose the types of listings you’re interested in (anything from farms to markets to lodgings, all offering local, sustainable food) and how many miles you’re willing to deviate from your route, and EWE will serve up a free custom, printable guide complete with maps, driving directions and business profiles. This new feature will not only serve up great listings, but also tell you how to get there. It will be able to handle anything from a day trip out to some local farms and restaurants to a cross-country adventure.

Radically expanded listings The Eat Well Guide was created originally to help people find meat, poultry, eggs and dairy that were not from factory farms. Conceived by Sustainable Table and IATP in 2003 and promoted by the internationally acclaimed Meatrix films, the Guide’s focus has traditionally been on animal products. But interns and externs around the country are currently working on adding produce, farmers markets, and vegan restaurants to the mix. Working with friends at Food & Water Watch, the team is also adding a new "water conscious rating" to help raise awareness of water issues and reward businesses that conserve water and have moved away from the decidedly un-green bottled-water phenomenon.

The Blog Still under development, so I’ll keep the name and details close until we launch, hopefully next month. I can say that I’m hoping to create a rich and vibrant space with lots of voices. Although I’ll be the primary blogger and editor, the whole team will be chiming in often, and I’m hoping to pass along stories from farmers, restaurateurs and other folks who are working hard to feed us well. We’ll also be inviting friends to share their Guided experiences, and will post lots of photos, videos, and regional information.

As always, the Guide will continue to offer registered users features like save-able search, printable custom guides, and regional updates. And although Eat Well’s status as a 501c3 nonprofit bars us from endorsing specific legislation, Eat Well will also point you in the direction of regional food organizations to help you get involved on a local level. Eat Well also offers search-box widgets, so if you’re interested in showing your readers how to find good food on the Web, check them out — you can even embed them in your social networking membership pages.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this heads up on Eat Well. This group is really pioneering the space where new media supports local, sustainable agriculture. I’ve used the Guide to find countless great restaurants, and also used it to find an amazing local farm when I was searching last fall for the grass-fed goose that graced our Thanksgiving table.

Until I get some news Digested…Eat Well!

4 Responsesto “The Eat Well Guide v2.0: Finding SOLE food on the road”

  1. Shannon Allen says:

    Bravo Leslie!
    I love the work that you are doing and I am really impressed with Eat Well. I do have one concern though. More than often, food that is good for you is unaffordable for folks. When I put my zip code into search engine it pulled up some places around my house that I know about, but I cannot afford to shop there. (And if my white, privleged, gentrifying self cannot afford it, how many people who live in my neighborhood really can?) I am sure you hear this all the time, but what is your take on this?

  2. Leslie says:

    Good question, Shan. (Leave it to one of my friends to sock it to me with a tough question on my first post!)

    This is a huge concern for the entire team at Eat Well, where the unofficial motto is “good food for all.” It’s also a huge can of worms, and a conversation that has been had time and again, among food activists and ethical eaters alike. Unfortunately, it’s not a problem I see any of us being able to solve any time soon, although there is a lot of great work being done in this area.

    That said, it’s true–healthy food is often ridiculously expensive, but I view that as evidence of a farm subsidy system that favors big business over public health, rather than evidence of a food movement that is exclusive and elitist (though some sectors of the movement do a better job at this than others).

    Bonnie P. has written at length on this subject, and the fact that decent food is generally worth the cost. Surely, we can all agree that providing a living wage to producers of good, clean food is as important as feeding oneself affordably. Many would also point to a need for shifting paradigms here–because I know you personally, I know that you’re not out buying flat-screen televisions while complaining about the cost of food–but Americans do tend to buy a lot of frivolous stuff, and as a nation, most of us spend less (percentage-wise) of our income on food than ever.

    This issue is also something Eat Well is working on–you may not be able to afford dinner at a chic organic restaurant in Harlem, let alone Midtown, but we’re in the process of adding farmers’ markets, which generally offer produce that’s cheaper than at most grocery stores, and cooking at home, while time consuming, connects us back to our food in ways that eating out doesn’t. Eat Well is also working to establish partnerships with groups around the country that are working on issues of food security and accessibility, and of course, we’re hoping that users will lend a hand in helping us find more find all of the affordable and delicious restaurants out there that serve SOLE food.

  3. Linda says:

    Hi, Leslie…since I hear you are from Baltimore, you might also be interested in this local event next week. It’s in northern Virginia at the new Busboys and Poets (check on line)…6:30, Wed., 2/13, with the author of the new book, Closing the Food Gap, Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty (Mark Winne). See you there!

  4. Leslie says:

    Hi, Linda–

    Thanks for this! I didn’t even know they had a Busboys and Poets in NoVA (I used to live in DC and loved the one there). Unfortunately, my partner and I don’t have a car, so I’ll have to poke around and see if the MARC can get me there without it taking me all night, which, based on my knowledge of Baltimore public transit, doesn’t seem likely.

    Too bad–I see they also have an organic beer happy hour that night too–though that could be really good or really bad…this is a debate that really gets people so fired up. Last night I was reading a City Paper review of new sustainable restaurant Woodberry Kitchen, that sparked an intense debate over price, and the comments got pretty ugly…