Terms like “organic” and “made in Brooklyn” help educate consumers on what they are buying, but sometimes these terms can be misleading because they don’t tell the whole story about the product. Are these labels just buzzwords that encourage consumers to make quick decisions without reading past the label, or are they helping grow local food by reaching a broader customer base?


Grace Tuttle, Designer, Lecturer at Parsons the New School for Design

Alice Varon, Executive Director of Certified Naturally Grown

Sandor Aaron Mark, Writer, Master’s Student in American Literature at Fordham University

Erica Wides, Owner of Chefsmartypants, LLC


Wen-Jay Ying, Program Director and Founder, Local Roots NYC

Suggested Donation: $10

Race, Place, and Authenticity in the Brooklyn Food Scene is presented by Heritage Radio Network, Local Roots NYC, and Raaka Chocolate. We’re exploring identity through food and drink in a series of panel discussions on food labeling, beverage culture, and the history of food manufacturing.


More about the panelists:

Grace Tuttle is a designer living in Brooklyn. She teaches at Parsons the New School for Design where she received her BFA in 2012 from the Transdiscipinary Design program. Her projects stretch across her diverse interest areas, including public policy, financial services, and communication design. In her practice, her methods include service design and strategic management, combining behavioral insights and design thinking frameworks. She has experience developing and implementing complex projects to enable holistic user experiences.

Alice Varon is Executive Director of Certified Naturally Grown. CNG offers peer-review certification for farmers and beekeepers who use natural practices free of synthetic chemicals and GMOs to produce food for their local communities. In 2010 Alice helped launch CNG’s apiary program to encourage natural beekeeping. She is now working with experts to develop new CNG certification programs for aquaponics and mushroom producers.  She is an active member of IFOAM-Organics International, serving as the North American representative on its PGS Committee, a group formed by IFOAM to support the development of grassroots certification programs built on trust, social networks and knowledge exchange.  Alice currently lives in Brooklyn, but she keeps her beehives and her newly-inoculated mushroom logs in the Hudson Valley.

Sandor Aaron Mark is a Master’s Student in American Literature at Fordham University. He is also an aspiring writer. In the past, Sandor has written on body image issues in men and culture. His interests in food stem from his interest in fitness and running. After becoming an avid runner, two years ago, Sandor began considering food as fuel. As a consumer he chooses to buy only whole, non-processed foods. His interest in food is also tied into his studies on what he calls “America’s body obsessed culture—how diet and fitness trends are disseminated and how they’ve affected the ways we see our bodies”.

Erica Wides is a chef, writer, and media host from Brooklyn, NY. She’s been in the food business for over 20 years, working in several of New York’s finest restaurants, including Arcadia, Zoe, Savoy and the China Grill, and then as a Senior Chef-Instructor at The Institute of Culinary Education for 15 years.  She is the creator and host of “Let’s Get Real; the cooking show about finding, preparing and eating FOOD” on the Heritage Radio Network. She is also a columnist for the Huffington Post and NuMi, and has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, the Food Network’s Top 5 and Chopped, Home Shopping Network, PBS, Sirius Radio, NPR, and in 2013 was invited to speak at TedX Berkeley.  Erica is the owner of Chefsmartypants LLC, a restaurant consultancy, developing menus and concepts for clients from idea to opening. She is also a commercial and voiceover actor.

Wen-Jay Ying became involved in food justice after reading an article about the decline of supermarkets in New York City and increased dependency on purchasing food at bodegas. She participated in Americorp VISTA as a CSA Resource Associate at Just Food, a food justice non-profit. Addicted to the local food movement, she joined Red Jacket Orchards where she started the first fruit only CSA in NYC, worked at farmers markets, and facilitated a partnership with Six Point Craft Ales to create a plum-infused beer. She realized her dream job would be to create a new kind of CSA that was more convenient and socially driven for New Yorker and also absorbed a lot of the logistical work for farmers to manage a CSA. This job did not exist anywhere in the world, soWenJay created her own job and company, Local Roots NYC. Every day, she is grateful for the opportunity to work with such amazing farmers and small batch producers and meet wonderful community members through Local Roots NYC. She’s been awarded Entrepreneur of the Year by former Mayor Bloomberg and named One’s to Watch by Cherry Bombe Magazine. WenJay is usually with her side kick corgi, Wuji, and has played the violin and bass in numerous bands.