No Fry Zone? Food Fight in Denver Continues

Councilman says catering initiatives are prejudicial against southern fare.

July 11, 2008— -- The heated debate in Denver this summer is not about Obama versus McCain. Rather, it is about old fashioned Southern fried food versus lean and green lighter offerings. The controversy surrounding the food selection for the 2008 Democratic Convention continues, with one councilman claiming the Denver Host Committee's catering proposal is discriminatory toward southern specialties such as fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, and fried okra.

"The host committee's food police are going too far," said Denver Councilman Charlie Brown. "They've turned into food control zealots."

The North Carolina-born councilman said the catering proposal not only includes a ban on fried food, but also a mandate for colorful, organic food. He also speculated the host committee's catering requests could be harmful to the Democratic Party's image, especially in the South.

"We need to work together to keep convention costs down, but officials seem more concerned about the green on the table than the green in party coffers," said Brown. "I don't believe this is the fiscally responsible message the party wants to send to America."

"He likes to perpetuate myths and put out erroneous comments," said Chris Lopez, Communications Director for the Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee. "Denver is one of the healthiest cities in the nation, and this proposal was not an outrageous one."

Lopez said the catering Request for Proposal, or RFP, which was distributed to local caterers in May, was not an actual contract, and did not in any way forbid fried fare.

"There is not a ban on fried food, and there never was," said Lopez, who refused to provide a copy of the proposal to

But the proposal was obtained by and it indeed does say that "no items are to be fried". Not only should fried fare be prohibited, says the proposal, but preference will be given to vendors who comply with the "Lean and Green Criteria."

Page nine of the proposal states: "In support of the DNC's "green" mission to planning an environmentally responsible convention, preference will be given to vendors that have a proven commitment to green practices and that consider and minimize the life-cycle environmental impacts of catering."

Also listed in the proposal, are the Greening Initiative's Lean and Green Criteria, which include:

Half of the meal or (50%) of the plate is made up of fruits and/or vegetables.

No items are to be fried.

A colorful meal – include at least three of the following five colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple, and white. (Garnishes not included)

70% or more of ingredients be precooked weight are certified organic and/or grown/raised in Colorado.

70% or more of ingredients by pre-cooked weight are fresh and not pre-processed.

"They call it the 'lean and green' menu, but I call it the 'green and mean' menu," said Brown. "I've been to a political convention, and I can assure you the delegates do not go to the political conventions to eat spa food."

Some local business owners, however, say they are used to catering to clients' specific request.

Joanne Katz, Co-Owner of Three Tomatoes Catering in Denver, said the "color coding" of food has been blown out of proportion.

"The host committee made requests, they are a private client, and as a caterer, that's my job," said Katz. "This is the height of harvest time so all the foods will be colorful, and if a client doesn't want fried food served, then that is their right."

Katz also said she believes the intention of the host committee was to have a collaborative forward thinking movement, not a directive.

"Our government got together and thought about what we could do to minimize resource consumption and negative impacts on the environment," said Katz.

For his part, Brown sticks by his argument that the Democrats, rather than being concerned with color-coded edibles, should only consider two colors – red and blue.

"You can't turn red states blue, especially Southern states, without fried chicken."

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