James Beard Foundation recognizes Cornelius Blanding as visionary leader

Cornelius Blanding, second from right, speaks on a panel at the National Press Club.

The James Beard Foundation last week announced that Cornelius Blanding, executive director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and a member of NCBA CLUSA’s Board of Directors, is one of five recipients in its Leadership Awards category recognizing visionary leadership in the sustainability, food justice and public health spaces.

The Leadership Awards are part of the James Beard Foundation’s Impact Program, which works to establish a more sustainable food system through education, advocacy and thought leadership. The awards recognize leadership in the sustainability, food justice and public health spaces.

Known as the Oscars of the food world, the prestigious award will hopefully shed light on the hardships faced by black farmers, landowners and cooperatives in the South, as well as provide new opportunities for partnerships throughout the food system.

Blanding has been the executive director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund since 2015. The Federation is a non-profit, cooperative association involving over 20,000 low-income rural families organized into more than 75 cooperatives, credit unions, and community-based economic development groups across the rural South. It is chartered to work in 13 southern states in some of the most economically depressed communities in the Black Belt Region.

Long before transitioning to the role of executive director, Blanding served in many capacities within the Federation for 18 years‚ÄĒproviding education and technical assistance to farmers and developing agricultural cooperatives. For 23 years, he‚Äôs been an energetic advocate for black land loss prevention, economic advancement for rural farmers through cooperative development, and policies that support farmers.

“Cooperatives are still being formed out of necessity to combat issues that are relevant to today‚Äôs economic, social and political landscape,” Blanding said. “Access to credit and markets, food security, land preservation, and climate change are all issues directly impacting the longevity of southern black farm families.‚ÄĚ

Under Blanding‚Äôs leadership, the Federation is focused on cooperative development, land retention, and advocacy in the U.S. and around the world. In Cuba, Blanding’s guidance led to creating an open market for Federation farmers to grow and export black beans to meet the diet demands of Cubans. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, he assisted small farmers in creating the first farm cooperative to help increase food production to reduce and address the exponential rates of food imports promoting greater food sovereignty.

Blanding and the other recipients will be honored at the 9th Annual Leadership Awards Ceremony and Dinner in Chicago on Sunday, May 5, 2019. This ceremony, presented in association with Deloitte, has become an important part of the larger James Beard Awards weekend in Chicago.

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