Industry Spotlight: Celebrity Chef and Farm Advocate Fight Food Insecurity

Duskie Estes baked her first cake at the age of five, using a toy oven. Since then, the Brown University alumna has worked tirelessly for two decades and has tasted much success, including appearances on the Food Network and PBS. Her restaurant Zazu Kitchen+Farm was named multiple times to the Michelin Guide, and she has earned numerous awards, including a James Beard award in 2001 for the cookbook Seattle Kitchen, co-authored with Tom Douglas. A dedicated advocate for small farms and food advocacy, she cycled 300 miles last year for the “No Kid Hungry” Chef’s Cycle ride, helping the organization raise $2,000,000 for a worthy cause. Now she is bringing her energy and passion for food accessibility into a new role. 

As the new executive director of Farm to Pantry, Estes makes it her mission to provide Sonoma County with access to healthy, locally-grown food, providing nourishment while preventing waste. To date, Farm to Pantry has gleaned 237 tons of surplus nuts, fruits, and vegetables from the fields, farms and backyards of Sonoma County and has distributed it to those in need. “Farm to Pantry is a win, win, win,” Estes said. “Getting food that would be wasted, harvested by volunteers, to those in need.” 

In California alone, consumers throw out around 5.6 million tons of food every year, which accounts for 18% of the state’s waste stream. Farm to Pantry’s services are in high demand now more than ever. The organization needs volunteers to complete its mission “to cultivate good health and community and to support environmental sustainability by rescuing locally grown food and sharing with those in need”. Volunteers are essential in gathering surplus food and delivering it to those in need. During this challenging time, Culinary Arts students at Santa Rosa Junior College have stepped up as volunteers, finding it to be a perfect blend of work experience and making a difference in their community. 

Estes’ vision and advocacy-driven action to help others inspires each of us to ask how our own skills could be put to use to help others during this health crisis.

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