Five Things You Should Know About the Good Food Awards
For all of us self-proclaimed foodies, food is our passion. We don’t just want to eat it. We want to read about it, talk about it, shop for it, prepare it, but most of all, we want to share it. Nothing brings family and friends together like a home-cooked meal made from all natural, farm-fresh ingredients. And if you’re anything like us, when you sit down to dinner, you don’t just want to pick up a fork and dive in. You want to “ooh and aah” over the food’s mouthwatering aroma, revel in its delicious flavors, marvel at its myriad textures, and celebrate its unique story. No detail is too small to ponder. Where was it grown? How was it made? What gives it its amazing flavor? Every aspect of the journey from field to table sparks a sense of wonder and demands further examination. That’s why we’re so grateful to the Good Food Awards for introducing us to the best artisan food crafters from across the nation. When we choose a product with a Good Food Awards seal, we know we’re getting the cream of the crop. The seal is our guarantee that the food we’re buying is being produced responsibly and that every bite will be a delicious and authentic representation of the region it hails from. If you pride yourself on feeding your family delectable, healthy foods, the Good Food Awards can be a great helpmate. Everything you need to know to get started is summed up below. But be forewarned, once you taste “the good stuff,” you’ll never want to eat anything else.
What are the Good Food Awards?
The best way to describe the Good Food Awards is to think of them as the Academy Awards of food. Just as winning an Oscar can be a ticket to fame for an actor, winning the Good Food Awards can catapult a local artisan food crafter from a starring role in the local farmer’s market to a much more prominent spot on the national scene, causing demand for his or her tasty creations to soar. However, it takes more than incredible flavor to earn a Good Food Awards medal. This annual, nationwide competition was first launched in 2010, but is actually linked to a larger food movement that’s been around much longer. The Slow Food Movement is a grass-roots effort that’s been promoting sustainably and locally grown foods, as well as traditional cooking, since the mid-1980s. In keeping with the principles of the Slow Food Movement, the Good Food Awards are unique among food competitions in that they reward outstanding American small batch food producers not only for delivering superior taste, but also for consistently holding themselves to the highest possible environmental, social, and ethical standards.
Each fall, thousands of entrants compete in a growing list of categories: beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, cider, coffee, confections, fish, honey, oils, pantry, pickles, preserves, spirits, and the most recently added category – elixirs. To encourage innovation and continually attract new participants, the Good Food Awards typically limit competitors to three entries per category and require a one-year waiting period before a winning product can be re-entered. Additionally, all food entries must be produced in the United States or a U.S. territory from fresh, locally grown, traceable ingredients, using methods that meet FDA standards and adhere to fair labor and environmentally sound practices. Lastly, entries must be free of genetically modified or artificial ingredients.
Celebrating America’s rich agricultural heritage is also a goal of the Good Food Awards, so to ensure the country’s many different culinary traditions and growing seasons are represented, entrants are divided into five regional groups: East, West, North, South and Central. Food samples are then scored in blind tasting tests that are judged by more than 200 industry leaders, chefs, grocers, technical experts, activists, journalists and citizen tasters. All entrants can see and benefit from the judges’ notes, and awards are presented to the top scorers from each region, provided they pass a comprehensive vetting process and meet the minimum tasting score requirements. The winners (three highest ranked entries from each category and region) are announced at an exclusive awards ceremony held each January in San Francisco. Each receives a medal and permission to use the Good Food Awards seal on product packaging and in advertising. But the greatest benefit afforded winners is the chance to connect with a growing network of like-minded food producers and retailers and to introduce themselves and their products to a nationwide audience of passionate food lovers and consumers.
Who is the driving force behind the awards?
The Good Food Awards competition is the brainchild of Director Sarah Weiner. A fierce believer in sustainable and responsible food production, Weiner has amassed an impressive set of achievements in the roughly 15 years since she left Dartmouth College with a degree in economics. Her rapid rise to fame is documented in a 2015 article written by Amber Turpin and published by Civil Eats, a daily newsletter chronicling the American food system. During the interview, Weiner recounts how, following graduation, she moved to Italy to work under world-renowned chef and Slow Food Movement leader Alice Waters. In 2008, the two teamed up to launch Slow Food Nation, a transformative event that attracted 85,000 followers and forever changed how many food-conscious Americans eat and live. As a result of her early professional experiences, Weiner believes there is a clear link between how we go about feeding and nurturing strong communities and how we overcome challenges in other critical areas, such as poverty, global warming, health care and conservation. She argues that sustainable food production has an important role to play in solving many of these problems, and as evidence, she points to examples of community based solutions that are being leveraged to fulfill several needs, for example, food banks that double as job training centers or shared commercial kitchens. Although these individual success stories are exciting, Weiner contends what’s needed most are credible, empowered voices – from every corner of the country – who are willing to speak out in favor of the cause. For her part, Weiner is working with large-scale event producer Dominic Phillips and the Good Food Foundation, a California-based 501 (c) 3 nonprofit, to spearhead the annual Good Food Awards competition, which has become a centerpiece of the sustainable food movement. The widespread support she has received from farmers, artisan food crafters, food writers and foodies in general is a testament to the positive impact the event has had on thousands of Americans, all of whom are enthusiastically embracing the idea of using food to foster healthier and happier lifestyles. Weiner told the folks at Civil Eats that one of her goals was to bring smart, passionate, talented people together to find better ways to feed our communities. With the Good Food Awards, she’s doing that – and much, much more.
Why do the awards matter so much?
As consumers, we have never had as much power as we do today to make choices that promote our own well-being, as well as that of our neighbors. The trick, however, is choosing wisely. Efforts like the Good Food Awards can help point us in the right direction. When we bring home a product that proudly displays a Good Food Award seal, we can rest assured that we’re doing our part to advance the core principles of the sustainable food movement: taste, authenticity and responsibility. First and foremost, we want mealtimes to be joyous occasions where we come together to enjoy truly scrumptious foods that are deeply rooted in regional and cultural traditions. Equally important, we want to be sure the food we’re preparing is healthy and nutritious. Often, this means buying fresh, locally grown, GMO-free foods, cultivated without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, and prepared without the addition of artificial ingredients. And finally, we want to be certain the food we put on our table has been grown, produced, and transported responsibly, with an eye toward promoting fair labor practices, water conservation, healthy soils, biodiversity, and the humane treatment of animals. By vetting products for us in a way that encourages both “transparency and honesty” throughout the supply chain, the Good Food Awards move us closer to these goals. In fact, the Good Food Awards go even further, fostering direct communication between producers and consumers by introducing us to small-batch artisan food crafters that we might never find on our own. How does an appetizer of Wild Pacific Troll Caught Albacore from Island Trollers in Whidbey Island, Washington, sound? Or maybe you’d like to try Picual Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Grumpy Goats Farm in Capay, California, Feta Marinated in Olive Oil from Split Creek Farm in Anderson, South Carolina, Sourwood Honey from Bee Wild in Smyrna, Georgia, or one of our personal favorites – Raspberry Balsamic Pear Chocolate from Patric Chocolate in Columbia, Missouri. This is just a handful of the highly skilled food innovators who have been recognized by the Good Food Awards in past years. There were actually 193 winners in 2017, all credited with supporting their local food economies by creating vibrant, flavorful, 100% natural foods – and if you’re anything like us, you’ll want to sample each one of them. Better act fast though. A new batch of winners is always waiting in the wings, anxious and eager to be found.
When does the competition happen?
The Good Food Awards competition officially kicks off in July and runs through January of the following year. The intervening months are a flurry of activity as entry forms are processed, entrants are vetted, and food samples are received, tasted and ranked. The months-long effort culminates at the Good Foods Awards annual weekend event in mid-January, with an invitation-only awards ceremony, a Good Food Mercantile open to select food producers and retailers, and a not-to-be missed Good Food Awards marketplace located at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. Held only once a year, the marketplace offers the public a rare opportunity to personally meet the most conscientious and talented artisan food crafters from across the country, as well as to taste and purchase their winning products. Marketplace tickets become available for purchase in December and always go fast, so mark your calendar and start planning your trip to California’s shining city by the bay. There’s nothing more exciting for a food junkie than being among the first to sample an up-and-coming new food sensation. And just think, as a marketplace attendee, you’ll actually be getting a jump on the slew of socially and environmentally aware journalists, critics, and chefs who’ll be writing and talking about the Good Food Awards winners well into the new year.
Where can I buy these delicious and healthy foods in my own community?
Visit the Good Food Awards to discover the best independently owned grocers located in dozens of small towns and large cities all across the country. The Good Food Retailers Collaborative boasts such iconic names as Bi-Rite in San Francisco, Liberty Heights in Salt Lake City, Glen’s Garden Market in Washington D.C., Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread and Wine in Chicago, and The Greene Grape in Brooklyn. These are just a few of the many neighborhood and local markets who have come together to support the Good Foods Awards initiative and who are dedicated to providing healthy, delicious foods, while at the same time protecting the environment and upholding American cultural traditions.
And for those times when you prefer the convenience of online shopping, we suggest making your first stop Yummy Artisan Foods, a homegrown father-son endeavor out of Northern California that delights in discovering and sharing award-winning artisan foods and novel gift ideas guaranteed to impress even the most discerning food connoisseurs. Descriptions of their wide selection of oils, honey, jams and butter, chocolate, confections, pantry items and sauces are accompanied by unbiased product reviews, producer bios, and new, creative ways to prepare your family’s favorite dishes.
Don’t wait another minute to join the growing number of farmers, artisan food crafters and local grocers who support the Good Food Awards. At the heart of everything they do is a commitment to craftsmanship and sustainability, along with an unshakeable belief that good food has the power to bring people together and build strong communities. Like the folks at the Good Food Awards, they know sharing the food you love – with the people you love – makes life more enjoyable. And if you’re reading this, we’re guessing you think so too.