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Photos by Asia Morris.

The opening mixer for the inaugural citywide Foodways Summit coordinated by Long Beach Fresh, a local organization dedicated to expanding and improving the city’s food economy and infrastructure, took place Wednesday evening and set the tone for the seven-day series of tours, panels and tastings to take place through Thursday, May 31.

A couple dozen women trailblazers of the local food industry and those interested in hearing their stories gathered in the back patio at Lola’s Mexican Cuisine on 4th Street to attend “Celebrating the Women Entrepreneurs of Local Food” where Wide Eyes Open Palms chef and food activist Kat McIver offered a fervent opening speech on the importance of seasonality, as well as recognizing the women of the sustainable food movement.

“Before the 1970s it was still these a la carte, continental menus, shipping ingredients from across the world, frozen things, canned things, onion powder,” McIver said. “They didn’t use onions in fine dining restaurants just a few decades ago. That’s a big deal. I think we’ve come a long way.”

And for Long Beach to be paying attention to food and where it comes from is a big deal, said McIver, whose approach to creating seasonal locally-sourced menu items for her and Angie Evans’ cafe off 4th Street’s Retro Row is their investment in helping to create a larger and more conscious food community in the city.

Those who offered their stories and advice throughout the evening included Aliye Aydin of A Good Carrot, Dina Amadril of Long Beach Creamery, Dawna Bass and Chrissy Cox of Under the Sun and Rainbow Juices, Prescilla and Catherine Tolentino of Gemmae Bake Shop, Sheila G. of Adventures to Dreams and Brenda Rivera of Lola’s Mexican Cuisine among others.

It was a true meeting of the minds as many of the women who are spearheading a socially and sustainably conscious food movement throughout Long Beach came together to share secrets of the trade, tips for making it through what many dubbed “the grind” and advice on pursuing the most trying entrepreneurial endeavors in the often misogynistic culture of the culinary world.

Finding the right words to describe the electric energy felt when some of the most hard-working and determined individuals in the city, working not just to feed, but inform Long Beach residents and visitors alike of the delicious and health-minded fare available to them, is difficult.

The Foodways Summit addresses a diverse range of topics including growing food, food waste, chef culture and food equity.

Long Beach Fresh co-director Ryan Smolar said the idea for the series came to him after he attended Placemaking Week 2017 in Amsterdam. He and co-director Tony Damico thought a sequence of innovative social events would work to unite the local chefs, farmers, politicians, health institutions, schools and others from the food industry and also encourage even more people to get involved.

“[…]We wanted to have a space for them to come together to recognize what’s grown in the food movement over the last four or five years,” Smolar said. “[..]Four or five years ago people didn’t know what this was and now it’s kind of a hot term, so we’re excited about this, but we also really want to retain our community and recognize people who have been a part of that growth.”

Upcoming events include the “DTLB Taste and Walk” on Friday and a “Double Decker Farm & Garden Bus Tour” on Saturday. Smolar said he’s looking forward to introducing more people to the gardens and farms popping up in North Long Beach during the tour.

“It’s been so amazing to see a resident-led urban agriculture revolution happening in a part of our city that’s so often forgotten,” Smolar voiced during the mixer. “The leadership up there of the residents and the farm expertise is second to none.”

Other notable events include “Wasted!” a gathering focused on finding solutions to the prevalent culture of throwing away food and “Transforming School Food”, a discussion with the Long Beach Unified School District on how institutions can better approach purchasing good food.

For more information on upcoming Foodways Summit events, visit the website here.

Asia Morris is a Long Beach native covering arts and culture for the Long Beach Post. You can reach her @hugelandmass on Twitter and Instagram and at [email protected].