Food for Thought

by Patrick Flanagan

Acadiana Food Day is about much more - or is it less? - than local cuisine.

By Tyler F. Thigpen

Acadiana Food Day is about much more - or is it less? - than local cuisine.

Move over Earth Day; it is time to celebrate food. That's right, the national celebration of locally grown and -raised foods, Food Day, is held annually on Oct. 24.  Each year during the week surrounding Food Day, local foods groups and leaders around the U.S. come together for events and activities that promote community support of local foods. This year, the 3rd Annual Acadiana Food Day will take place from 8 a.m. to noon at the Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market at the Horse Farm on Oct. 26. In Acadiana in the fall, there are plenty of festivals featuring a unique edible facet of south Louisiana, but this celebration focuses on the way food is produced rather than a particular food item or cuisine.

Photos by Lucius A. Fontenot

"There are many food celebrations; however, this one focuses on some of the challenges surrounding our food supply," says Daphne Olivier, Acadiana Food Day volunteer and owner of My Food Coach, a local business that educates clients on healthy food consumption.

"The areas of education and access to healthy foods, reducing hunger in our nation, sustainable farming, and animal and farm worker welfare are areas that need to be recognized and addressed as a grassroots effort."

Acadiana Food Day started in 2011. "When I found out that a national celebration called Food Day existed, my immediate reaction was Lafayette must be a part of this,'" says Michelle MacFadyen, local foods advocate and co-owner of Great Harvest Bread Co. of Acadiana. "Then I learned that Food Day is extra special because it's a celebration of healthy, affordable and sustainably produced food."

MacFadyen teamed up with community-based non-profit Acadiana Food Circle to host the first Food Day in the Great Harvest Bread Co. parking lot. The event featured a farmers' market, Christine Balfa and friends and other live music, face painting and more. An estimated 50-75 people attended.

In 2012, MacFadyen moved the event to Heymann Park on South College Road and organized a bigger event and farmers' market complete with local restaurants, slow foods and sustainable gardening presentations, a petting zoo featuring some of the Gotreaux Family Farms' animals, music and other attractions. The event hosted an estimated 300 attendees.

Similar to the slow foods movement as a whole, Food Day continues to grow. This year the event is going to be paired with the weekly Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market at the Horse Farm and more than 1,500 people are expected to attend. Acadiana Food Day will include the existing farmers' market plus guest vendors that are participating for the event, more educational presentations, activities for children and live music.

"For those people who don't frequent farmers' markets, I would like the event to be a catalyst for forming a new habit," says MacFadyen. "Making farmers' markets a regular part of their week, which could then be a catalyst for getting in the kitchen more."

For Olivier, Food Day is about incorporating locally grown and -produced foods into the strong food culture that exists in Lafayette. "My dream for Food Day is for our local community to shift their paradigm of food," says Olivier. "We live in a culture where the taste of food is unmatched anywhere in the world. My hope is that people can also understand the nutritional value of food, and more importantly be able to marry the tastes of food with the nutrition of food from local, sustainable resources."

Tyler F. Thigpen is a wetland ecologist and past president of Acadiana Food Circle (, a community-based nonprofit that connects local food producers to consumers.
Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market at the Horse Farm
To volunteer, email Michelle MacFadyen at
[email protected]