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Introducing the Carolina Food Summit

The Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation,, TerraVita and Food for All (UNC Chapel Hill’s academic theme 2015–2017) have joined forces to host the first annual Carolina Food Summit on Sept. 28–29 in Chapel Hill, NC. Over the course of two days, NC citizens, thinkers, and leaders in the food community will discuss the issues, challenges, successes and failures of the state’s food economy and culture.

In a state that takes pride in its foodways, more than one in five of NC children are food insecure. More than 50 percent of NC public school children are eligible for free and reduced lunch. In NC and our nation, the local food scene is booming, yet millions do not have access to proper nutrition.

The Carolina Food Summit seeks to create a bridge between area universities and individuals who are working to improve food-related policy and the region’s producers, chefs, and restaurateurs. Approximately thirty speakers, from NC and the broader South, will come together over the course of this two-day event. By offering community- and student-priced tickets, organizers hope to maximize participation with attendees that reflect the diversity of North Carolina’s population.

“We have been thinking about ways to grow TerraVita’s educational component and positively influence the community,” said Colleen Minton, founder and director of TerraVita Food and Drink Festival. “The Carolina Food Summit is a great opportunity to put a spotlight on these needed discussions and partner with these three organizations to create meaningful dialogue and carry these ideas into our communities.”

To honor the importance of food in defining place and cultural identity, the summit will begin with an evening of storytelling Wednesday, Sep 28, at Gerrard Hall. Vansana Nolitha, co-owner of Raleigh’s Bida Manda, is one of several participants who will reflect on their individual version of NC foodways.

“When I was growing up in Laos, I remember mom pouring cups of water and lighting candles and incense sticks around the four corners of our house everyday,” said Nolintha. “More than 18 years later, I still find myself doing similar rituals at our Laotian restaurant here in Moore Square in downtown Raleigh.”

By giving voice to personal memories in this opening session, Carolina Food Summit organizers hope to drive discussion on how every person can develop positive, meaningful food experiences.

“When we sit together and dine on livermush and mustard in western North Carolina, or fried collards in Lumberton, we take our seat at a North Carolina table that was built over hundreds of years by sharecroppers, subsistence farmers, and migrant farmworkers,” said Nation Hahn, Chief Growth Officer of and lead organizer of the Carolina Food Summit. “We want to lift up the voices and stories rarely told, shine a bright light on what is working and what isn’t, and ask provocative questions that will drive the conversation forward.”

The program, taking place at Rock Quarry Farm in Chapel Hill on Sept. 29, will encourage speakers and audience members to strategize improvements to NC’s food policy through various panel sessions. Marcie Cohen Ferris, author of The Edible South: The Power of Food and the Making of an American Region (UNC Press, 2014) and co-chair of Food for All, will ground participants with a “State of North Carolina Food” presentation.

Toni Tipton Martin, James Beard winning author of The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks, will be the keynote and shed light on the cultural origins of the American plate. The summit will wrap up with a “Gathering for Good” on NC Food in 2025. Developed by the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation, these sessions involve the audience in problem-solving for a stronger North Carolina. (For the complete conference program, visit

The event has garnered the attention and support of award-winning, regional publications like The Bitter Southerner. The publication is a media partner for the summit, and editor and founder Chuck Reece will help moderate the event.

“The Bitter Southerner tries to take the opportunity to be part of any group that looks at important issues facing today’s South,” said Chuck Reece, editor and founder. “I’m incredibly happy to join some of the best observers of southern food culture and history at the Carolina Food Summit.”

Other speakers for the two-day summit will include the following:

  • April McGreger, chef and owner of Farmers Daughter Preserves & Pickles
  • Marcie Cohen Ferris, professor, American Studies and co-chair of Food for All, UNC Chapel Hill
  • Scott Marlow, executive director, RAFI
  • Bernard L. Herman, George B. Tindall Distinguished Professor of Southern Studies and chair, American Studies, UNC Chapel Hill
  • Nancy Gottovi of STARworks
  • Inez Ribustello, co-owner of On the Square
  • Clark Barlowe, Chef, Heirloom Restaurant
  • Colin Bedford, chef, The Fearrington House Restaurant
  • Kelly Alexander, food and culture writer, Cultural Anthropology, Duke University
  • Melanie Allen, Conservation and Diversity Director at Conservation Trust for North Carolina
  • Gini Bell, executive director, Farmer Foodshare
  • Sandi Kronick, CEO, Eastern Carolina Organics
  • Sheri Castle, author and food writer
  • Bill Smith, chef, Crooks Corner
  • Donovan McKnight, co-founder, Ethnosh
  • Jefferson Currie II, independent folklorist

For more information about The Carolina Food Summit, visit Tickets are available at If you would like to sponsor the The Carolina Food Summit, please email Erica Porter at or Nation Hahn at

About the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation

The Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation is focused on engaging and connecting emerging leaders and community-based organizations that work on the issues that will impact the future of North Carolina — poverty, food justice, hunger, and public education. Jamie Kirk Hahn believed food and drink united people from different walks of life in turn encouraging influential, actionable ideas that serve to change and empower the communities in which we live.


EducationNC (EdNC) seeks to expand the educational opportunities for all children in North Carolina, increase their academic attainment, and improve the performance of the state’s public schools. EdNC provides the state with data, research, news, information, and analysis about the major trends, issues, and challenges facing K-12 education. EdNC is your trusted source of information and the architecture for your participation in a statewide conversation about our schools.

About TerraVita Food & Drink Festival

TerraVita Food & Drink Festival started in October 2010 and has been named one of the “10 Southern Food Festivals You Need to Taste” by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and “4 Can’t Miss Southern Food Festivals” by The Chapel Hill, NC-based festival, now in its seventh year, offers exceptional dinners, tasting events, after parties, chef demos as well as the “Sustainable Classroom” — educational experiences featuring renowned chefs, authors & national media. For updates, follow @TerraVitaFoodie on Twitter and Instagram, TerraVita Food & Drink Festival on Pinterest and Facebook (#TerraVita2016). For more information go to

About Food For All

UNC-CH’s university-wide academic theme, “Food for All: Local and Global Perspectives,” advances the campus and community’s engagement in topics as diverse as the cultural and historical study of food in society to nutrition, hunger, sustainable agriculture, environmental degradation, climate change, food justice, entrepreneurial creativity, and economic development. As an international and regional leader in food studies, UNC’s research, resources, publications, service, and teaching in food-related fields have flourished since the 1920s, when the university first confronted the region’s chronic illiteracy, poverty, and malnutrition. The goal of “Food for All” is to motivate conversation and research about food-focused scholarship and public engagement on a campus, state, national, and global level. UNC’s “Food for All” theme is proud to be a supporter of the Carolina Food Summit and its commitment to creating the healthy and vibrant food systems that all North Carolinians deserve.


EdNC staff reporting relies on staff, interns, and columnists.