Q&A: Yael Lehmann

Executive director, the Food Trust; mom; part-time rocker; speaker at today's TEDxPhilly conference

Please explain what the Food Trust does in 60 seconds or less.
The Food Trust strives to make healthy food available to everyone. We run farmers’ markets throughout Philadelphia. We also do nutrition education with kids. It’s all about getting people to learn about eating healthy and bringing healthy food into neighborhoods.

Photo by Christopher Leaman

You moved here 11 years ago from San Francisco. Was healthy eating a part of your lifestyle?
Yeah. My mother’s an amazing cook, and food has always been a big part of my life. I spent several years working in the food industry at a lot of restaurants, so I was shaped by that as well. I bussed a lot of tables.

Do you cook?
I’m most happy when I’m cooking. I also love baking bread. I just find it very soothing. And it’s fun to eat it afterwards.


What’s your biggest junk food vice? Something really awful, like Funyuns or a Cheetos stash no one knows about?
[laughs] Funyuns don’t do it for me. I could definitely eat a pint of Cherry Garcia.

Where do you stand on the mayor’s proposed sugary drinks tax?
We did a survey that found the majority of people support it as long as the tax would go to programs for kids. I feel the same way. It could be an enormous boost, and for a small tax—I think we’re just talking a few pennies—it could really help a lot of kids.

How did the Food Trust hook up with Brad Lidge and his wife, Lindsay?
That was the luckiest thing! Lindsay is very passionate about food. She knows a lot about cooking and nutrition. Lindsay called out of the blue. I think it took our staffer a while to figure out who she was talking to. They’ve been just great to work with.

What’s this TEDx event you’re doing on November 8th?
It’s at the Temple Performing Arts Center, and the theme is “The City.” TED stands for “technology, entertainment and design.” It started in the ’80s, and the idea was to bring together people who had all these cool ideas and to start discussion. They happen all over the world, which is wild. This is the second one in Philadelphia. I believe one of my staff nominated me as a speaker while I was on vacation. [laughs] No pressure!

Tell me about your band, Happy Accident.
I play with my husband, Blake, and Brian Lang, who works at the Food Trust. I play bass, and Blake plays guitar and sings. It’s fun. I guess you’d call it indie rock-pop kinda stuff.

What does your eight-year-old son think of his mom and dad’s rock band?
He likes it. I’m trying to get him interested in the drums so we can have a family band. When we go play a show and get a babysitter, he’ll say “Go rock now!”

Has he seen you perform?
A few times. He’ll just walk onstage. Even if we assign someone to watch him, there’s no stopping him. Sometimes he tries to talk to me, which is a little awkward.