FoodLab

This interview details FoodLab, a company based in the United States. The interview is with Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz, Director of FoodLab.

Source: FoodLab

What is the origin story of FoodLab?

FoodLab originated as an annual conference offering opportunities for food businesses, educators, chefs, and others looking to better understand how food impacts our society and to network and learn from each other. Originating in 2015, the annual conferences covered food subjects ranging from sea to soil, including food business, hospitality, terroir, farm to table, and dock to dish with food luminaries such as David Barber, Lydia Bastanivitch, Bobby Flay, Carla King, Katleen King of Tates and others giving keynote addresses.

Today, FoodLab’s mission is to establish Stony Brook University as a regional and national center for studying challenging food-related issues the world faces, chiefly how we feed a growing world population facing climate change and diminishing natural resources. FoodLab now offers year round classes, workshops and symposiums on a wide variety of topics.

Source: FoodLab

What are some of the biggest challenges facing FoodLab in the future? 

Challenges are opportunities in disguise. FoodLab has a few! 

Changing the way people live, eat, move and treat the earth are all big challenges. 

So, too, is producing enough good, clean and fair food in an age of significant climate change and rising costs. Local food production is under pressure from high land prices, diminished arable land availability and a limited workforce population. FoodLab is teaching a small-scale biointensive farming class that offers farmers the opportunity to earn a living wage on small acreage.

Education in food and agriculture has been outsourced to colleges and universities in upstate New York making it difficult for people, who want to remain local, to upskill or even gain fundamental horticultural skills. FoodLab is teaching the fundamentals in interdisciplinary labs that apply knowledge across fields.

Our biggest challenge of all is to develop a Food Studies program from the ground up (literally) with limited funding and staffing. 

Source: FoodLab

What is unique about FoodLab compared to similar programs? 

Covid precipitated the creation of virtual communities. Suddenly, you could take a cooking class online with your friends or zoom through your day. FoodLab's principal focus is to convene people in a physical space, creating positive energy through hands-on learning, community and the exchange of ideas. Most of our programming is experiential, project-based and in-person. We certainly plan to offer remote opportunities in the future, but do believe in the power of showing up.

The first year of educational programming focused on creating a one acre educational farm, which was built by student workers and volunteers. Taking an interdisciplinary and academic approach to food and agriculture, students get to experience a multitude of related fields such as construction, kelp farming, conventional and farming, power tool use, propagation,etc. Students develop advanced skills and are encouraged to monetize knowledge through entrepreneurial endeavor.

Source: FoodLab

Any exciting news to share regarding FoodLab with the audience? 

FoodLab just hosted a Positive Nutrition: A Mediterranean Mindset symposium which was illuminating. With the encouragement of one of the presenters, FoodLab will be building a Mind Diet and Mediterranean Garden this Spring to share important scientific findings on plants that provide beneficial nutrients for cognitive function (particularly in the elderly) and medicinal properties. In our educational space, which is multi-faceted and deeply engaging, FoodLab aims to connect people to the plants that provide nourishment, sustenance and good health outcomes. It's a project that is continually growing with help from the Suffolk County Department of Labor's Learn and Earn program for youth and FoodLab programming.

Source: FoodLab

How can people connect with you or learn more about FoodLab?

The best way to connect with FoodLab is through our newsletter, which you can get by signing up on our website www.thefoodlab.org. You can find us too on Instagram, Facebook, Linked-In and X.

If you have any questions, you can always email the Director of FoodLab Education at judiann.carmack-fayyaz@stonybrook.edu.

Source: FoodLab

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