Downtown Market’s Culinary Conversations panel to focus on mental health

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Myke Worthem (left) and Kirel Shaw, co-owners of Street Chef Shaw, are joining the conversation on mental health in the food industry. Courtesy Street Chef Shaw

The Grand Rapids Downtown Market’s next Culinary Conversations panel will discuss the topic of mental health issues in the food industry.

The Downtown Market said Wednesday, Oct. 14, its next event in the virtual series, “Mental Health in the Food Industry,” will be held 6-7:30 p.m. Oct. 28, and will focus on the stressors and pressures associated with careers in the food industry. 

Zenobia Taylor Weiss. Courtesy Cellar Door Preserves

Those who register online for the free discussion will receive the private viewing link the day of the event.

The panel discussion will be moderated by Ryan Bolhuis, culinary operations manager at the Downtown Market and will feature food industry veterans including Chris Andrus, co-owner of Mitten Brewing Company; Zenobia Taylor-Weiss, owner of Cellar Door Preserves; and Kirel Shaw and Myke Worthem, co-owners of Street Chef Shaw. 

Panelists will share their personal stories about what they go through to bring joy to customers.

Chris Andrus. Courtesy Mitten Brewing Co.

“We’re in the food industry because we love our craft and sharing it with others,” Bolhuis said. “But it’s a fast-paced, high-pressure industry, so it can be difficult to take a step back and prioritize your mental health. We hope to bring about this conversation to not only support one another, but to also remind ourselves that our mental health is just as important as our physical health.”

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates nearly one in five Americans live with a mental illness, and a 2017 study found that those who work in the food service industry in a tipped environment are more likely to develop a mental illness than workers in other salaried industries. In addition, many food industry professionals struggle to gain access to affordable mental health care and are left to cope with the stressors of the industry on their own. 

Lauren Kennedy. Courtesy Lauren Kennedy

Lauren Kennedy, an extension specialist in community behavioral health with the Michigan State University Extension Health and Nutrition Institute, will join Culinary Conversations to share more information regarding mental health, behavioral tendencies and positive ways to cope with the stress of the industry.

Questions for the panelists can be asked in the comment section of the live stream. Depending on the duration of the event and the number of submissions, all questions might not be addressed.

Culinary Conversations is a peer-to-peer collaboration and networking group for West Michigan’s food industry professionals, including growers, producers, chefs, bartenders, restaurant owners, entrepreneurs and others, intended to strengthen Grand Rapids’ regional food system.

The event is led by the Downtown Market, in partnership with Start Garden, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW) and MSU Extension.

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