I’m a chef. Here’s why I’m lobbying on climate change.

Award-winning chef, TV personality and author JJ Johnson unpacks why culinary leaders should engage on climate change.

A photograph of celebrity chef JJ Johnson leaning on the counter of a kitchen at FIELDTRIP, a community-focused rice bowl shop. The chef is wearing a gray T shirt and smiling.

Chef JJ Johnson pictured in the kitchen of FIELDTRIP, a community-focused rice bowl shop he founded.

Happy Friday, and welcome to Food Fix! I’m JJ Johnson. Some of you might know me as the founder of FIELDTRIP, the community-focused rice bowl shop based in New York, which expanded internationally this week with our new Atlantis Paradise Island location in the Bahamas! Or maybe you’ve caught my show on CLEO TV, “Just Eats with JJ,” or have seen the cookbook I published last fall, “The Simple Art of Rice.” I’ll be your guest host for today’s installment of Food Fix – I’m excited to be in your inboxes.

Alright, let’s get to it –



I’m a chef. Here’s why I’m lobbying on climate change.

You might be wondering why a chef is guest-writing a food policy newsletter. But in recent years, the role of chefs has expanded well beyond the walls of the kitchen. The way I see it, I have a responsibility to serve not just the guests in my restaurants – but the community too, from my team and the purveyors and farmers I work with to the next generation of culinary talent and so on. I’m also a father, and my kids and my wife are at the heart of my community.

Each day, I see the direct impact of climate change on each of the groups that make up my community. That’s why I am calling on Congress to take much more action on climate change. 

There are so many reasons why this is an important issue, but I’ll speak to it from my perspective as a chef. Climate change has already impacted the food and restaurant industry so profoundly that earlier this year the James Beard Foundation launched the Climate Solutions for Restaurant Survival campaign, which I’m proud to be a part of. The campaign works with chefs from across the country to help policymakers understand the economic impact of climate change on independent restaurants and the people we employ. For example, the campaign recently brought chefs to Washington, D.C. to meet with policymakers and organized a letter from nearly 600 chefs in all 50 states telling Congress to protect important Inflation Reduction Act funding that fights climate change and helps the farmers that supply us. 

Think about the rice: I purchase around 5,000 pounds of rice every month for my growing restaurant brand, so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this ingredient. (I even wrote a whole book about it.) This global staple – can you imagine a world without rice? – is a good example of why it’s important for chefs to think about climate change. Many of our most prized ingredients are both threatened by and, in some cases, are part of the solution to tackling climate change. There’s been research, for example, showing we could slash methane emissions if we stopped growing rice, but it’s one of the most important foods on every continent. It’s not just culturally important, it’s one of the biggest sources of calories for billions of people. What if instead we changed how we grow rice? We could cut methane emissions by curbing flooding or by adding fish, ducks or crawfish into the production system. 

Of course, rising temperatures will also threaten rice production, leading to higher costs and food insecurity. Rice is just one small but crucial ingredient that’s potentially part of the climate solution, while also being threatened by climate change. 

Embrace seasonality: Advocating for seasonality and natural availability is another way chefs and restaurateurs can engage in the climate conversation. We’ve got to stop manipulating the climate to support the on-demand consumption of foods, which has become a short-sighted standard in this country. Just because we’ve figured out how to grow, sell and buy peaches in the winter doesn’t mean we should. The negative impact of forcing this gorgeous fruit to grow out of season, or shipping them halfway around the world so they’re available in December, is massive. And for what? They don’t even taste good out of season! 

We’re already seeing the real impact of rising temperatures. In Northeast Pennsylvania where I grew up, the water levels in the Delaware River are extremely low due to the heat and for this reason, trout season was essentially skipped this year. In mid June, I was in Aspen cooking at a few dinners (fancy, I know) and it was 90 degrees! That’s not right. And ramp season, a short window for foraging so-called wild leeks once celebrated as the unofficial start of spring, barely exists anymore. We’re losing access to some incredibly meaningful ingredients because it’s too hot. 

Consider the economic impact: Climate change is already imposing a significant cost to the food industry and consumers. Rising temperatures, shifts in agricultural patterns and extreme weather events such as floods, drought and wildfires are driving up costs for an already vulnerable industry and undermining our ability to meet consumers’ expectations for high-quality meals at all price points. Expensive ingredients trigger higher price points on menus. Hiked up prices increase the cost of living – but the industry can’t afford the salaries to match it. It’s a vicious, never ending cycle. Without some sense of stability in food costs, we don’t stand a chance. 

The food chain’s carbon footprint: The way our country’s food supply-chain has been allowed to operate is out of control. We have to stop and slow down. Like I said before, we really don’t need peaches in the winter. Just think about the carbon footprint caused by shipping all this food. 

In 2023 alone, the U.S. imported $2.7 billion worth of tomatoes from Mexico. Think about that: $2.7 billion in tomatoes? What’s wrong with Jersey tomatoes? Let’s support our local farmers and eat them at their prime in the summer. Like peaches, tomatoes are terrible out of season, too!

I source as much as I can locally. In addition to reducing the carbon footprint of the supply chain, this approach has allowed me to create a broader and stronger community within my own food system. 

A chef’s call to action: Washington must do more to support local and regional food systems and seasonal eating. We also need to incentivize regenerative farming practices. In the short-term, Congress must protect the $20 billion in conservation funding in the farm bill that’s specifically aimed at supporting more climate-friendly agricultural practices – a hot topic right now. 

And to my fellow chefs: I’d like to see us stop developing menus that disregard seasonality. We would never want to eat flavorless, traditionally summer veggies in the winter, so let’s show our guests why eating seasonally matters and how delicious it is.

Chefs, farmers and food purveyors should educate consumers and lead the way on intentional eating, to help connect the dots between climate change and the ingredients we love. That’s why I’m speaking out on this – it’s why I’ll meet with any lawmaker who wants to work on these issues, and I’ll cook something delicious for them, too.


What we’re reading

Wellness execs pitch their industry to address chronic disease (POLITICO). “Executives from more than a dozen top wellness and fitness companies are launching a new coalition aimed at reframing the way chronic diseases are addressed in public policy – by pitching policies that would financially benefit its members,” Caitlin Oprysko writes. “End Chronic Disease includes the heads of companies like Sweetgreen, CrossFit, Bloom Nutrition, Thrive Market, AG1 and more, and is led by Calley Means, a co-founder of the company TrueMed.” According to Means, “the coalition will deploy insight he gleaned as a former consultant for the food and pharmaceuticals industries to co-opt their lobbying strategies in fighting things like soda taxes and nutrition standards and try to shift policy toward a different set of health care and nutrition incentives – ones that would boost the bottom lines of the companies helping fund the new coalition.”

Consumer Brands Association’s leader departing to head life insurance trade group (ACLI). David Chavern is stepping down as president and CEO of the Consumer Brands Association to lead the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI). Chavern will succeed Susan Neely, who announced her retirement from association leadership earlier this year (Neely previously led the American Beverage Association). Chavern will join ACLI on September 1, the group said.

Political not practical: Sec. Vilsack slams House farm bill (RFDTV). “Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack is calling on the House Ag Committee to go back to the drawing board over the Farm Bill. He calls their framework political, not practical,” reports Currey McCullough. “Vilsack told reporters this week their bill is funded by gimmicks, and says it likely will not get a majority vote in either chamber. He takes issue with their nutrition plans as well as restricting spending authority of the Commodity Credit Corporation.” 

(If you missed Tuesday’s Food Fix, guest host Jenny Hopkinson broke down the latest on the farm bill funding rift: read it here.)

Ice cream products from multiple brands recalled by FDA due to potential listeria contamination (ABC News). “A major ice cream producer has recalled products sold by multiple brands due to potential listeria contamination, the Food and Drug Administration said,” Meredith Deliso reports. “The manufacturer – Totally Cool, Inc. of Owings Mills, Maryland – has recalled products from more than a dozen brands, including Friendly’s, Hershey’s Ice Cream, Jeni’s and the Frozen Farmer, due to the ‘possible health risk,’ the FDA said. No illnesses have been reported to date, the FDA said in its alert on Monday.”

Big Food tries to limit GLP-1 hit with vitamins, meals (Bloomberg). “The so-called Ozempic Revolution has wiped billions off the market value of food and drink companies. But new weight-loss drugs are boosting at least one line of products that has sometimes faced sluggish demand: yogurt,” report Dasha Afanasieva and Deena Shanker. “France’s Danone says it’s seeing a jump in demand for its high-protein, low calorie yogurts in the US that it attributes partly to the new obesity-treatment craze. US regulators also have helped by endorsing the product, saying two cups a week could reduce the risk of diabetes.”

One year later: Strides and hiccups for the cultivated meat industry (Food Dive). “This past year has been a complicated landscape for the industry. Between limited access to capital and political roadblocks, the future of cultivated meat feels very uncertain,” Elizabeth Flood writes. The economic burden of alt-meat production is large: “As a result of the high costs to produce a mostly cultivated product, a lot of companies have created hybrid products that include a mixture of cultivated animal cells and other plant-based proteins.” The industry also faces hurdles on the political front, where some argue that a ban on cultivated meat “[protects] cattle ranchers and farmers and prohibits an ‘elitist’ class from promoting unnatural food.”

Daily multivitamins do not help people live longer, major study finds (The Guardian). “Rather than living longer, people who consumed daily multivitamins were marginally more likely than non-users to die in the study period, prompting the government researchers to comment that ‘multivitamin use to improve longevity is not supported,’” Ian Sample reports. “The researchers found no evidence that daily multivitamins reduced the risk of death and reported instead a 4% higher mortality risk among users in the initial years of follow-up. The greater risk of death may reflect the harms multivitamins can cause or a trend for people to start daily multivitamins when they develop a serious illness.”

Solar farms, clean energy projects get $375 million in USDA aid (FERN). “The Agriculture Department will provide more than a quarter-billion dollars of low-interest loans for five clean energy projects from Kentucky to Alaska, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday,” Chuck Abbott reports. “With the announcement, the USDA has awarded half of the $1 billion available through its Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) program.”

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