Philadelphia restaurateur Judy Wicks hadn’t sought to become a food activist and sustainability entrepreneur when she opened the White Dog Café in 1983. But when she learned about the dire living conditions of the pigs whose meat her restaurant purchased, she immediately took action. She ordered her kitchen to stop serving all pork dishes, and she set about finding a local distributor of pasture-raised pork. She then did the same for her restaurant’s beef and poultry. But rather than safeguard this information and dominate a niche market, Wicks decided to share it with her competitors.
Her interest in creating a sustainable food system led to the creation of the Fair Food project. Fair Food began by educating other local restaurateurs about the social impact of their buying practices and listening to their concerns—including what held them back from buying free range meats. Fair Food now connects restaurants and grocers with local farmers, and operates a grocery called Fair Food Farmstand. In 2001 Wicks expanded the scope of her work by founding BALLE, a nationwide network of socially responsible businesses. While Wicks sold the White Dog Café in 2009, she remains immersed in the sustainable food movement, devoting time to the other projects she’s launched.