Nutrition leader and alumnus Sam Kass to speak April 22 during UChicago’s Earth Fest

Former White House chef to deliver Frizzell Lecture on food security

Sam Kass
Sam Kass, former White House chef and food policy adviser, will speak at the Frizzell Family Speaker and Learning Series.
Courtesy of
Sam Kass
Mark Peters
News Director and Social Sciences SpecialistUniversity Communications

Sam Kass, AB’04, Lab’98—former White House chef, food policy adviser, executive director of Michelle Obama's “Let's Move!” campaign and current food entrepreneur—will speak at Earth Fest on April 22 at 1 p.m. Monica Eng, WBEZ Chicago food, health and culture reporter, will interview Kass at the William Eckhardt Research Center about his time in the Obama administration, his thoughts on food security and his food-related ventures.

Kass’ interview will mark the fourth speaker sponsored by the Frizzell Family Speaker and Learning Series. It was established by a donation from the Frizzell family in commemoration of Alexandra Frizzell, a UChicago student with passionate interests in agriculture, health and the environment who died during her last year in the College in 2013. Past Frizzell Series speakers have discussed topics including the environmental origins of diabetes, urban sustainability and the “world’s greenest restaurant.”

The goal of the Frizzell Series is to foster better student interaction with leaders, faculty, alumni and advocates, building skills, knowledge and confidence through problem-solving related to a theme chosen by a student-led steering committee. The 2016-17 theme is food security. The annual series is administered by the Social Sciences Collegiate Division and the Program on Global Environment under the guidance of Sabina Shaikh, director of the Program on Global Environment.

“The Frizzell Series is an exciting opportunity for students in the College to develop intellectual leadership on issues with global impact,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “It is a fitting way to honor the legacy of Alexandra Frizzell, and we are deeply grateful to the Frizzell family for making it possible.”

The talk is part of Earth Fest, which will showcase sustainable organizations, programs and initiatives from around campus and the city. A zero-waste track and field championship also will be happening that day at Stagg Field. Students are encouraged to volunteer for the activities being held across campus on Earth Day.

Kass has strong ties to the University of Chicago as an alumnus of the UChicago Laboratory Schools and the College. He was the Frizzell Series Student Committee’s first choice to speak at Earth Fest because of his unique perspective on food policy, healthy eating and urban agriculture.

“Chicago is a segregated place, and we live among a lot of food deserts. Sam Kass has perspective on a lot of urban policy issues that we’re interested in hearing about and how they relate to Chicago,” said May-May Chen, a fourth-year College student and Frizzell committee member. “We’re excited to bring his expertise to campus because food is such a hot topic right now, particularly issues related to sustainability and waste. Additionally, we want to know how college students, as well as people without means, can feed themselves healthfully.”

Chen is one of nine members of the student committee leading the Frizzell Series this year. They are contributing to a blog series on food security leading up to Earth Fest and are sponsoring a service engagement event on the South Side on April 8 in partnership with the University Community Service Center. All UChicago community members are invited to participate.

Applications for next year’s Frizzell Student Committee will be available in May. Elaine Yao, a Frizzell student committee member, encourages students with ideas for speakers and events related to the environment, agriculture or health to apply. “We have this wonderful fund to make things happen,” she said. “If you have a vision of what you want to see on campus and want to be part of a group that can make it real, the Frizzell Series gives you the resources to do it—and with great collaborators.”

Shaikh said the Frizzell Series is a fitting tribute to the issues that were important to Alexandra Frizzell.

“I had the great fortune of having Alexandra Frizzell in three of my courses,” said Shaikh. “From childhood travels around the world to a diverse range of college experiences, Alex developed a strong sense of community, a commitment to service and an endless quest for knowledge. The Frizzell Series instills these values and experiences in UChicago students by providing them with the opportunity to engage with the world in the way Alex would have intended—with dedication, passion and inclusivity.”