June is National Pollinator Month, and organizations across the nation are coming together for the sake of bees, the oft-unsung heroes of the food world. One organization joining the cause is Whole Kids Foundation. The foundation is partnering with chefs from each region of the United States, like Chef Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon in New Orleans, to host dinners benefiting their Give Bees a Chance campaign. Whole Kids is a charitable organization whose operations are funded by Whole Foods Market, and the organization works to provide children with access to healthy food choices.
As pollinators, bees are vital contributors to human nutrition. They pollinate a majority of fruits and vegetables we enjoy throughout the year, but bees are also crucial to the crops used to feed livestock.
Unfortunately, many bee populations are in global decline. The rusty patched bumble bee population has declined 87 percent in 20 years. As a result, that particular species was the first bumblebee given protected status by the Endangered Species Act last year.
But perhaps the greatest way to emphasize the impact bees have on agriculture is to connect their role to the dinner table itself. Through Give Bees a Chance, Whole Kids is emphasizing the importance of pollinators in nutrition and agriculture and raising $100,000 to provide 50 schools with beehives.
Each Give Bees a Chance benefit dinner features a menu comprised almost entirely of pollinator-produced ingredients. For the New Orleans benefit dinner, Stephen’s menu will be filled with innovative takes on eggplant, chive blossoms, squash blossoms, tomatoes, zucchini, fennel pollen, flowering coriander, sunflower seeds, and honey from Bayou St. John and Kentwood. Each of the four courses will be served with an accompanying wine.
“We’d been talking about the bee population decline for a long time as chefs. But when I started to put this menu together, it really dawned on me how much of an issue this really is—the necessity to have them,” says Stephen.
Stephen was the 2011 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef: South and also co-founded the Link Stryjewski Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to educate and nourish children in New Orleans and see an end to cycles of violence and poverty throughout the area. After hearing about what Whole Kids is doing with Give Bees a Chance, Stephen knew his own foundation needed to participate.
“We as an organization work with several programs in the city that are trying to teach gardening to young kids, and this just seems like an awesome continuation of that idea,” Stephen says. “Teaching kids the importance of a garden and the community aspect of a garden plus the other things that impact your garden, like pollinators—that’s invaluable.”
The New Orleans dinner will take place on Friday, June 15, at Cochon. Cocktails will be served beginning at 7 p.m., and the seated, four-course dinner will begin at 7:45 p.m. Tickets for the benefit are $95 each and may be purchased here.