There’s a new holiday on the calendar this fall. Its name? Food Day. No, it’s not a day off, and no, it doesn’t just involve eating all day. It is, however, an event devoted to changing the way people view food in the United States.

foodday-featured.jpgThe Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) announced Tuesday that October 24, 2011 will mark the first annual Food Day. The day will be dedicated to all issues related to food, from how it’s produced to how it’s eaten to who has access to it.

“There’s such a range of food problems: unsafe food, unhealthy food. The way food is grown is often destructive to the environment or harmful to farm animals. There are hungry people in this country,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director and founder of CSPI in an interview with Food Safety News.

Jacobson says Food Day is a way to “really draw the public’s attention to these problems and really make some progress toward solving them.”

Modeled on Earth Day, Food Day is designed as a grassroots movement that will inspire people to promote the food issue of their choice in the way they see fit.

Communities and organizations are encouraged to get creative in how they honor the occasion. Celebrations could include anything from a healthy potluck dinner using locally grown ingredients to a church dinner discussion on combating hunger, to events organized on college campuses, says Jacobson.

CSPI also anticipates that large cities such as Washington, D.C., New York City, San Francisco, and other smaller cities will host a series of events to observe the day.

“The many activities and events spurred by Food Day will help foster a robust dialogue on how to promote better nutrition and health, lessen hunger and increase access to food, enhance opportunities for farm families and communities and conserve natural resources, said Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, honorary co-chair of Food Day. “Surely we will all benefit from discussions about the connections among food, farms and health.”

The goal of the day is not just to inspire conversation surrounding food, but to bring people with different stakes in food issues into dialogue with one another. 

“We want to foster coalitions between groups that haven’t really worked together,” says Jacobson. 

Organizers of Food Day hope that the day’s events will spark movement toward the following key goals:

— Reducing diet-related disease by promoting healthy foods

— Supporting sustainable farms and stopping subsidies to agribusinesses

— Expanding access to food and alleviating hunger

— Reforming factory farms to protect animals and the environment, and

— Curbing junk-food marketing to kids

But, Jacobson says, the day isn’t only about focusing on ways the food system needs improvement.

“We do want it to be celebratory. We don’t want to just be talking about what a bummer the food supply is. We want to talk about how delicious eating can be,” he says.

Food Day has received support from prominent figures in the movement for change in the food system, as well as from politicians, farmers, public health workers, and others.

“We’ve had a tremendous response,” says Jacobson. “It’s the only thing I think I’ve done where people are asking to be on the advisory committee.”

Soon, Food Day’s website will allow people to search for events in their area, or create Food Day events of their own.