Nischan sees local eating as a heroic act

Tue Apr 20, 2010 11:48am EDT
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Michel Nischan said in his latest book, "Sustainably Delicious," that eating locally-grown food is a tasty, healthy act of heroism that supports regional farmers and economic activity.

The 51-year-old chef demonstrates this view at the Dressing Room in Westport, Connecticut, a restaurant he opened with late American actor Paul Newman in late 2006.

Besides his restaurant and cookbooks, Nischan is the head of Wholesome Wave Foundation whose goal is to bring affordable, fresh, locally-grown food to underserved communities.

Nischan, a grandson of displaced farmers, spoke to Reuters about locally-grown food and his perfect Earth Day dinner.

Q: What do you want readers to learn from your new book?

A: "My book is geared toward helping people to understand the importance of buying locally and buying sustainably. The way they spend their money can have a huge impact on their enjoyment, the health of their family, the health of their economy, preserving and keeping farmers around so their kids can grow knowing what a farm looks like, what countryside looks like. By making small changes, you can be a hero. I'm not telling everyone in America to buy local tomorrow, my feeling is that you can do it one product at a time."

Q: Your Wholesome Wave Foundation is involved with a program that doubles the value of the U.S. food stamps when a recipient spends them at a farmers market. Has it worked to promote healthier eating among poor families?

A: "If they really like the choice of fruits and vegetables and can't afford them, we provide them with this extra money and they will take us up on this incentive. What we found in markets where we have gone in and have been accepting food stamps, their redemption rates increased 300 percent from the prior year when there was no incentive plan in place. Some places have even seen a 1,000 percent increase. Now there is an incredible desire in these communities for fresh fruits and vegetables."   Continued...

<p>Chef Michel Nischan is seen in a garden in 2009. REUTERS/Andre Baranowski/Handout</p>