In our last post, we told you about helping out a great local nonprofit, River City Eco Foundation, in planning this year’s Eco Fest. Another fantastic organization we’re involved with is soon to be Jacksonville’s newest nonproft: Gastrojax Inc. At One Spark this past April, Gastrojax had much success presenting its project, Gastrofest, which placed quite high among the 610 projects. You can see the final results here.
So what is Gastrofest? Here it is, straight from gastrofest.com:
“It’s time Jacksonville showed the world what our awesome culinary scene has to offer. We need a food fest that celebrates all of it, from fine dining to food trucks, from microbrews to local cookbooks, from vegans to local beef. That’s why we’ve been inspired to start Gastrofest. There have been some food festivals popping up throughout Jacksonville, but none seek to celebrate our food culture inclusively and on a large scale. More than that, we love what North Florida has to offer and we want to show the whole country what we’ve got! We want this to become an event that will bring tourists from other parts of Florida and beyond.”
Here’s a bit more for the audiovisually inclined:
Oh, here’s a member of that awesome culinary scene now: Michael Coutu, of Tapa That, stopped by Gastrofest’s One Spark tent with his Cuban black beans, both traditional and animal product-free versions!
You long-time TOA readers know that we’re about much, much more than food; we educate about and help people make changes related to resource usage, waste, energy, toxins and more. But, of course, food, diet, food systems, and food production are inseparable from those issues and are a huge part of how we humans live, and how we live directly affects our health and the health of the planet.
So when Gastrojax’s Executive Director asked us to be on the board and help bring a comprehensive food festival celebrating Northeast Florida’s gastronomic culture to life, we quickly realized that she, and the rest of the organization, shares our interest in the “local” part of local food; in fresh, healthy food choices; in the state of our food system; and in many other food-related issues. We saw Gastrojax as an extension of our green living consultation work and an opportunity to do some good from within the foodie milieu.
So what exactly does Gastrojax’s Director of Vegetable Affairs do? Through Gastrofest and other events, Gastrojax is trying to showcase our region’s food culture, and TOA is working within that to showcase, and hopefully help grow, our region’s environmentally sensitive and health-conscious food culture and to show people, all people, how they can access and love fantastic food while still taking care of the planet and themselves. As such, our role is to involve the plant-based community and its chefs and restaurants; small, local food producers; local farms; and food-related organizations and to enlist their help in accomplishing that mission by connecting them with the public.
And, as you know from our last post, one of our biggest pet peeves is how environmentally UNfriendly a lot of festivals and big public events can be, so we’ll also be working to make sure Gastrofest is as “clean” a festival as possible. One Spark was a great start. Most of our décor was made up of reused and repurposed items. We used a lot of live plants in our booth décor, thanks to Down to Earth Farm and Berry Good Farms. We also disallowed Styrofoam as a material for food service items; used a cruelty-free, plant-based soap and reusable cloths at our dishwashing station; used waste-minimizing measures; and managed to recycle much of the waste we did produce.
Finally, Gastrojax is going to do a lot of good for Jacksonville. Food festivals are major revenue generators and a big focus of food tourism and all the positive press that generates. We’ve already formed partnerships with many other nonprofits, community groups and businesses. And we already have several events planned or in the works in these months leading up to Gastrofest. The first of those events is on Thursday, June 26—this Thursday! Chef Dennis Chan of Blue Bamboo will be hosting the Damn Good Dim Sum dinner as a fundraiser for Gastrojax. I hope you got your tickets already because it’s sold out, but read the description in the event link anyway to get an idea of the kinds of things we’re working on.
More dinners and other events are in the works, we’ll be introducing people to Gastrofest at the US Green Building Council North Florida Green Social at Aardwolf Brewing Company at 6 p.m. on August 12…there’s just too much going on to mention it all here, so sign up for Gastrofest news on the website, like the Facebook page, follow @GastroJax on Twitter. And if you’re a fan of food pics or just want to see where to get great food in Jacksonville, check out Gastrofest on Pinterest. Hope you’ll come out and let us feed you…and your mind!