Food for Thought, an engaging two-year program created by Indiana Humanities, recently took home the award for best humanities program at the National Humanities Conference in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Elements of Food for Thought included a traveling exhibit that criss-crossed the state (including a visit to Whiting's Pierogi Fest and the North Judson Mint Festival), an agriculture essay contest for students, a high-profile event with chefs and authors Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert, a robust partnership and granting program (including a grant to the Prairie Writers Guild, based in Rensselaer), and more.
The Helen and Martin Schwartz Prize is awarded by the Federation of State Humanities Councils for innovative programs that have had a significant impact on citizens, organizations or communities in their states or territories.
Food for Thought, a two-year examination and celebration about food and the role it plays in our lives, was recognized for the innovative way it engaged new audiences in thinking, reading and talking about food.
Thanks to partnering organizations, such as the North Judson Mint Festival and Whiting's Pierogi Fest, Food for Thought was much more than an Indiana Humanities program. It took on a life of its own and inspired Hoosiers to create their own food-related programs.
We owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to all of the partners involved — those who helped bring the traveling exhibit to their local library or museum; created innovative programs that involved church basement ladies or school field trips; or created content for the Food for Thought blog.
We chose food as a topic because it was relevant and accessible, but also because it offered opportunities to form new partnerships and to engage audiences in discussions about much deeper issues that are food-related.
Now, Indiana Humanities will transition into a new two-year theme program, "Spirit of Competition." Using the tremendous amount of momentum from Food for Thought, we will tackle another important, yet popular topic in Indiana: competition. We will address deeper human issues using the lens of athletic, political and economic competition.
Adopting these two-year themes will encourage innovation within our organization and among our partners, and continue to inspire connections among our constituents about topics they enjoy.
But we haven't forgotten all we've learned yet. Food for Thought leaves a variety of legacies: an annual ag essay (learn more at www.indianahumanities.org) and a legacy project that highlights more than 60 Hoosiers involved in food issues around the state (including Jesus Alvarez from Lynethe's Deli and Pierogies, and Larry Wappel from Wappel Farms in San Pierre).
We hope this vibrant, picture-filled coffee-table book will serve as a legacy to the program and feature much of what we learned over the past two years.
We will also continue to use the Chew on This discussion and dinner model developed during this program. We think the format is an excellent way of tackling any topic.
Finally, we developed partnerships and relationships that will stick with us long after Food for Thought ends, and we are excited to see how those develop over our next theme and beyond.
Thanks, Northwest Indiana, for your incredible support of Food for Thought. We hope you'll join our team again for Spirit of Competition.
Keira Amstutz is president and CEO of Indiana Humanities. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.