Every two years, the city of Turin, Slow Food International, the Piemonte region, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry Policies welcomes guests from around the world to celebrate good, clean, and fair food. Twenty years since its initial gathering, Terra Madre Salone del Gusto will be on full display on the streets of Turin as leaders and supporters will share knowledge from around the world under the cultural and thematic umbrella of “loving the earth.”
From September 22-26, Alexis Joseph of Alchemy Juice Bar + Café and Hummusapien will be there to witness it all as central Ohio’s Slow Food USA delegate. Prior to her departure, Alexis will also be joining us and other former Slow Food delegates at our ninth annual Shake the Hand that Feeds You dinner, which seeks to raise funds for supporting Terra Madre delegates, as well as our local Slow Food Columbus initiatives.
About Alexis Joseph
Alexis’s health journey began in her undergraduate nutrition studies at The Ohio State University. During her sophomore year, she began to marry her passion for cooking and nutrition by teaching children how to cook nutritious foods with Local Matters, Children’s Hunger Alliance, and local food pantries. Alexis wrote her graduate thesis on the health perceptions of cancer survivors harvesting at an urban garden. She learned the value of functional foods, that diets rich in plants with their powerful phytochemicals could not only prevent disease, but reverse it. In an effort to educate the public and personify her passion for all things health while she pursued her Master’s degree, she started a food blog. Hummusapien became her mode of inspiring others to embrace their maximum health potential via simple, approachable, whole foods recipes.
Her vision for the food movement encompasses expanding the accessibility of healthy, delicious, foods to all. People don’t eat healthy for at least one of three reasons: it’s unaffordable, they don’t have the knowledge, or the food doesn’t taste good. She contributes to this alternate vision by teaching people how to cook quick, affordable, appetizing meals. The ingredients in her recipes implicitly contribute to the sustainability of our food system. She focuses on plant-based diets and advocates using local, in-season produce whenever possible to reduce the environmental footprint and strengthen relationships in our communities. Her main focus currently is to change dietary perceptions and improve long-term health outcomes while empowering the mental well being of society. She has made it her mission to continuously empower and educate the masses on making healthful decisions with low-budget, delicious recipes that don’t take too much time. She imagines a world where we embrace food for its flavor, its beauty, its healthfulness, its environmental impact, and its simplicity.
Alexis co-founded Alchemy Café with close friend, colleague and former Slow Food delegate Abed Al Shahal in an effort to intersect health care and food. They used their knowledge from studying nutrition to open up a health food café in a low-income area near Nationwide Children’s Hospital to counteract the commodity food options available in hospitals. It has always amazed her how the place people go for health care has food that perpetuates the sick-care cycle In addition to offering nutrient-dense salads, smoothies, sandwiches, and juices, the community has the opportunity to talk through menu choices with on-site registered dietitians or even schedule a private or group nutrition consultation. In addition to working with non-profits such as Local Matters, they also work with local law firms and corporations to educate employees on the benefits of healthful eating and maintaining a holistic perspective when purchasing food for their families. For Alexis, “every decision we make and action we take locally has far-reaching global implications, whether ethically sourcing our menu items, supporting local farmers, teaching public nutrition classes, or open-sourcing our recipes. We understand that the reclaiming and collective shift around food systems across the world is still in its infancy and much work needs to be done. Education is the way.”
It was during this transition that she started to become more connected to local farmers and artisans, opening up a door to ingredients Alexis had never seen, smelled or tasted. The team at Alchemy takes pride in showcasing local purveyors and heirloom crop varieties only found in our state, like paw-paw, Ohio’s state fruit that tastes like something from the tropics. Although they put immense value on supporting our neighbors we also responsibly source global ingredients that are both socially and environmentally responsible, such as organic, fair-trade açaí whose purchase helps support the Amazon. This local and global intersection with a functional food-as-medicine perspective enables us to showcase recipes that are nourishing, purposeful, and authentic.
The success of Alchemy in conjunction with her involvement in the community fueled the growth of her food blog following to nearly 400,000 monthly page views and landed features on The Huffington Post, Women’s Health, and Prevention. Alexis appeared on monthly healthy cooking segments with Good Day Columbus and wrote topical nutrition articles for publications such as My Fitness Pal. In March of 2016, Today’s Dietitian Magazine named her a Top Ten Dietitian. While completing this application, Columbus Monthly informed her that she was chosen a Columbus Tastemaker for 2016 as a visionary for the Columbus food movement. She was sponsored by national growers to learn more about their growing process, including the Wild Blueberry Association, The California Almond Board, and Natural Delights Medjool Dates.
The experiences Alexis has gained from her journey have enabled her to achieve a true holistic view from micro to macro, physiological to agricultural, and local to global. According to Alexis, “this knowledge empowers me to educate the public and explain why things like antioxidants matter, why a dependency on California for a majority of our food is unsustainable, and why our decisions in our little city of Columbus have a global impact.”
What will Alexis learn at Terra Madre?
Because of her studies and experience, she feels well versed in nutrition. That said, Alexis knows she have a lot to learn about how she can do her part as and a community organizer and how she can help build on the momentum of this food system’s shift. She is anxious to learn how she can better utilize our cafe Alchemy as a platform for social change and how she can challenge her blog readership to be proactive as food systems activists. Alexis wants to learn how she can do her part as a social entrepreneur to foster the local food movement, improve global health, and save our ecosystems. Having a more knowledgeable holistic perspective on the implications of our choices would empower her to continue educating back at home on how to evolve the food system. Gardening, urban farming, and sustainable agribusiness are areas in which she is weak and she sees herself evolving.
Alexis is a big believer in approachability and she knows that diet is very personalized; so she tries to focus on how to supplement the diet with disease-fighting foods rather than discouraging “bad” foods. In other words, it’s more so about what you can eat than what you can’t. Although she is a big of a proponent of plant-based diets, Alexis still believes that food choices are an individualized right and that not everyone can or wants to thrive on this diet. She is interested in learning more about the Slow Meat and Slow Cheese movements. In general, having a broader perspective and learning from the thousands of amazing food activists attending Slow Food would be life changing. She understands the power of relationships. Teaching and learning with the other delegates during Terra Madre is a way to build long lasting global connection that will pave the future of food!