Chefs and restaurant owners: Save the Bees

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Christy Leavitt

Environment America

Sixty-five chefs, restaurant owners and other culinary leaders joined with Environment America today to launch the Bee Friendly Food Alliance. Through the Alliance, chefs and restaurateurs are calling attention to the importance of bees to our food supply, the dramatic die off bee populations are experiencing, and the need to protect the pollinators.  

“From family run pizza shops to fine dining destinations, chefs and restaurant owners around the country are coming together to Save the Bees,” said Christy Leavitt, Bee Friendly Food Alliance Coordinator with Environment America. “Chefs know up close and personal: no bees means no food.” 

Pollinating everything from apples and almonds to avocados and onions, bees are critical to our food supply. Bees also pollinate the alfalfa eaten by dairy cows, coffee, and chocolate.

Millions of bees die across the U.S. every year. Beekeepers report they are losing an average of 30% of all honeybee colonies each winter, and last year was even worse with 40% lost.  And it’s not just honeybees that are in danger; the federal government announced the first bumblebee in the continental U.S. for the endangered species list in January.

Scientists point to several causes behind the bee die off, including global warming, habitat loss, parasites and a class of bee-killing pesticides known as neonicotinoids, or neonics.

“Given the magnitude of the role bees have in our food cycle, it is critical for chefs to educate and advocate for our little friends.  A dinner table without the fruits of their labor is incomplete,” said Matt Heimbauer, Executive Chef, Mindful Restaurant Group in Washington, DC.

Restaurants depend on a stable and seasonal supply of vegetables, fruits and other foods pollinated by bees. The continued loss of bees will hit restaurants, chefs, and their customers especially hard.

“The Porch has four active hives on our rooftop to aid in the growth of the bee population.  Our menus are created based on locally grown and sustainable produce and products; without bees, many, if not all, of those products wouldn’t be available, said Kevin Hermann, Executive Chef of The Porch at Schenley in Pittsburgh.  “Every bee counts when it comes to conquering our ever-growing need to sustain our regional and national produce needs.”

Members of the restaurant industry are mobilizing to save the bees. Alarmed by the role of neonics in the bee die off, earlier this year chefs and restaurant owners sent a letter to EPA calling for a national ban on the use of these toxic pesticides.

The Bee Friendly Food Alliance is engaging chefs and restaurant owners across the country to educate their customers and make their voices heard to protect bees. 

“I am compelled to spend time using my voice to educate my diners and work to push policy that will protect pollinators, in this case the bees whom are truly the creators of these food crops,” said Stephanie Bonin, owner of duo Restaurant that has locations in Denver and Vermont. “We can never take good food for granted, nor every bee that helps us create it.”

List of Bee Friendly Food Alliance supporters is here

staff | TPIN

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