Dun goodbye in Todi.jpg


The past five years Oldways has remembered K. Dun Gifford, founder of Oldways, by honoring a New Englander with the K. Dun Gifford Local Hero Award.

The Local Hero Award, presented at Boston’s Readable Feast, an annual event celebrating food, food writing, and people who make a difference. The K. Dun Gifford Local Hero Award honors “a New Englander who through some medium of food (author, writer, educator, chef, grower, producer, activist, nutritionist) has positively affected our local foodways.” 

Since the inaugural event, the awardees include this group of accomplished and influential individuals:

2021: Dr. Jessica B. Harris

Dr. Jessica B. Harris

Jessica Harris

Educator and culinary historian, Dr. Jessica B. Harris is a longtime friend of Oldways and is a member of Oldways’ African Heritage & Health Advisory Committee with strong ties to New England, as a frequent visitor to Martha’s Vineyard.

Jessica holds a Ph.D. from NYU and is an English professor at Queens College, CUNY. She consults at Dillard University in New Orleans, where she founded the Institute for the Study of Culinary Cultures. Harris is a founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and a member of the IACP and Les Dames d’Escoffier. Her articles have appeared in Eating Well, Food & Wine, Essence, and The New Yorker, among other publications, and she has been profiled in The New York Times. Harris has spoken about the food of African Americans on The Today Show, and Good Morning America, and at the Museum of Natural History, and has been a frequent guest at Philadelphia’s The Book and the Cook. In 2004, Harris was awarded the Jack Daniel’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and was also inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America.

She is the author of twelve cookbooks documenting the foods and foodways of the African Diaspora. Her most recent book is High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, and it has turned into the wildly successful Netflix series. She has written extensively about the culture of Africa in the Americas, lectured widely, and made numerous television appearances. To learn more about Jessica visit Africooks.com.

View celebration video

2020: Russ and Marian Morash

Russ and Marian Morash


Russ and Marian Morash are pioneers in so many ways—through television, gardening, restaurants and cookbooks. 

Russ produced and directed a number of television programs for WGBH, beginning his career with science programs and children’s shows like Science Reporter and Ruth Ann’s Camp. He went on to specialize in DIY programming, including shows such as The French Chef with Julia Child, The Victory Garden, This Old House, and The New Yankee Workshop, among others. He’s won countless Emmys, and the satisfaction that his legacy continues.

Marian first started cooking when Russ began working on The French Chef with Julia Child in 1963. Russ would bring home leftover food from the show and instructions from Julia on how to prepare and cook it. Suddenly, Marian went from cooking her usual tuna fish casserole to preparing things like whole goose stuffed with prunes that were stuffed with foie gras. This marked the beginning of her successful cooking career as a television cook, cookbook author, and restaurant chef. 

In 1975, Russ asked Marian to cook vegetables as “Chef Marian” on his show, The Victory Garden. Up until this point, the show taught people how to garden and grow their own vegetables, but with Marian’s added cooking segment, viewers could now learn how to prepare and cook what they grew. Her segment became a hit, and the show inspired Marian to write The Victory Garden cookbook series, the first of which was published in 1982.

The same year that Marian began cooking on The Victory Garden, she and her friend Susan Mayer were approached by Jock and Laine Gifford, friends of theirs who wanted to start a restaurant on the island of Nantucket. The restaurant would not be a professional kitchen, but rather a place that would serve the simple and delicious food Marian and Susan prepared at dinner parties, which Jock and Laine often attended. Marian agreed to give it a try, and the restaurant opened in 1976. She went on to run Straight Wharf Restaurant for 11 years and received the James Beard Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America Award in 1984. For a period of time, Straight Wharf had an all-women kitchen, aside from a young man who shucked oysters. This was unusual for a restaurant in those days—Chef Marian defied the norm and proved just how successful a woman head chef could be.

Read more about the Morash’s.

2019: Jody Adams and Tom Kelly

Jody Adams and Tom Kelly

jody readable feast 2019
tom kelly readable feast

Jody Adams

With many “best” awards for her food and restaurants, the James Beard Award-winning Chef Jody Adams is proudest of her work advocating for children’s welfare or combating hunger through her support of the Boston Food Bank. In 2010 she received the Humanitarian of the Year Award from Share our Strength. During regular visits to Haiti, she helps to shape and maintain the hospitality programs for Partners in Health facilities. Adams was also inducted to the prestigious James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who” list in May of 2018.

Read more about Jody Adams




Dr. Tom Kelly

Dr. Kelly is Executive director of the UNH Sustainability Institute, which he founded in 1997, and the Chief Sustainability Officer of the University of New Hampshire (UNH). Throughout his three decades of national and international work in higher education, Dr. Kelly has focused on sustainability.

He co-edited and authored “The Sustainable Learning Community: One University’s Journey to the Future” (2009), is a founding convener of Food Solutions New England, and is a co-author of A New England Food Vision as well as the 2017 article “Equity as Common Cause: How a Sustainable Food System Network is Cultivating a Commitment to Racial Justice.”  He is also a collaborative designer and facilitator of the Food Solutions New England Network Leadership Institute, and a founding convener of the New Hampshire Food Alliance. Additonally, Dr. Kelly was a founding member of the Northeast Campus Sustainability Consortium and the Inter-institutional Network for Food and Agricultural Sustainability (INFAS), a visiting scholar at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California San Diego, and a visiting professor of trans-boundary environmental issues in the U.S.-Mexican borderlands at El Colegio de Mexico, Mexico DF. 

Read more about Thomas Kelly.

2018: Rebecca Alssid

Rebecca Alssid


Rebecca Alssid is a local hero. She didn’t just witness the culinary revolution. She was part of it.

For more than 30 years she created and fostered the culinary program at Boston University. Using her wits and connections in the New England, national and international culinary world she developed a premier experience training students for a culinary certification and offering cooking classes for the greater Boston community. She also ran the evergreen program for adult education, coordinated culinary tours in Europe, created the first Master’s program in gastronomy, and also started the the Liz Bishop wine education program that offers various certifications, and prepares students to go on to take the master sommelier program. Rebecca’s impact goes way beyond local, and she was a head of her time—thousands of students and food enthusiasts from all over the world have benefited from her kind, but tenacious attention to bettering our knowledge of food and wine.

2017: Walter Willett

Walter Willett 

Walter Willett

2017’s winner of the K. Dun Gifford Local Hero Award was  a long-time friend and collaborator, Walter Willett of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Here are only a few of his remarkable achievements—accomplishments that have made a difference in the lives and health of people almost everywhere:

At a time when Americans were afraid of fat, with Oldways and colleagues at the HSPH and overseas, Walter helped create the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, featuring olive oil. He helped popularize using healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, peanuts, and avocados in an overall healthy diet like the Mediterranean Diet, instead of low-fat diets that were actually full of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Walter also led the campaign in the US to get rid of trans fats in our food supply — and he succeeded. In fact, in June 2015, the FDA ruled that artificial trans fats must disappear from the American diet and gave food manufacturers three years to remove the partially-hydrogenated oils from their products. Walter also helped contribute to the fact that the demand for sugar-sweetened beverages is at a 30-year low in the US. Additionally, in today’s world of fake news, Walter is a calm voice of reason, backed by some of the best nutrition research studies, especially ones that he developed with his team at the HSPH (three large-population cohorts following more than 300,00 people).

Walter is still at it every day, speaking up against crazy headlines with solid science and simple explanations. Along with everything else, he’s published more than 1,700 original scientific papers along with the textbook Nutritional Epidemiology and four books with food and cooking advice for the general public.

Read more about Walter Willett.

2016: Frances Moore Lappé

Frances Moore Lappé

francés Moore lappe

Frances Moore Lappé is a true visionary, pioneer and hero – both local and global. More than forty years ago, Frances Moore Lappé started a revolution in the way Americans think about food and hunger with the publication in 1971 of Diet for a Small Planet. It was the first major book to note the environmental impact of food production and to offer solutions. It’s called a classic reference for people who want to follow a diet based on plants.

Since then she’s written and co-authored 17 more books about world hunger, living democracy and the environment. With her daughter, Anna, she founded the Small Planet Institute, which focuses on solutions: From the crisis of needless hunger to that of democracy itself, the Institute offers evidence-based solutions.

As you can imagine this is not her first award – but we hope this one is as meaningful for her as it is for Oldways. As a huge admirer of Frances and the impact her books and work have made, Dun would have been thrilled to know Frances was the first awardee of an award with his name.

Read more about Frances.



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