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Food run: Stepping up for healthier food

Jack Stovitz, 16, crosses the finish line to win the 2014 Food & Wine 5K Charity Run in Aspen. Stovitz is a high school runner from Los Angeles.
Dale Strode/The Aspen Times |

Food run.

Make that a healthy food run.

Runners, culinarians and culinarian runners turned out by the bushel Friday morning for the annual Food & Wine 5K Charity Run in Aspen.



Nearly 500 runners, in fact, signed up for the 3-mile (plus) morning jaunt through Aspen’s West End with a start and finish at Rio Grande Park.

Part of Aspen’s annual Food & Wine extravaganza, the 5K run was a benefit again this year for Wholesome Wave, a national nonprofit established to help make fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables available to families everywhere.



And a teenager — a fast teenager but not a fast-food teenager — led the way.

Sixteen-year-old Jack Stovitz, who spends the school year in Los Angeles, crossed the finish line first Friday, winning the 5K in 19 minutes and change.

“I run cross country and track,” Stovitz said, referring to the Harvard-Westlake School in California.

“I live in Los Angeles, but I come up here as much as I can,” said Stovitz, who was a bit surprised he held off the field to win Friday’s race.

“I’ve been here for like a week and a half, and I feel like I’m just starting to acclimate (to the elevation),” said Stovitz, the son of Laura and Ken Stovitz.

The prep standout said he’s looking forward to returning to Los Angeles after a summer training at altitude in Aspen.

“When I go back to sea level, it feels easier,” the smiling Sovitz said.

Shortly after he finished, Aspen’s Christine Benedetti ran under the finishing arch by the skate park – first in the women’s division (which dwarfed the men’s entries).

“This is my home course … it’s easier for me than for people coming from sea level,” said Benedetti, who finished second in last year’s race to U.S. Mountain Team runner Megan Lund Lizotte.

Benedetti, who works at the Aspen Daily News and the Aspen Historical Society, said she came out Friday morning for a fun run … a morning workout.

“I think people really like the idea of getting a run in before an indulgent weekend at Food & Wine,” she said as scores of the 485 official entries made their way across the finish line, where they were cheered by famed chef and Wholesome Wave founder Michel Nischan.

“We’ve had a tremendous year,” Nischan said of the Wholesome Wave foundation and last year’s campaign with federal farm legislation.

“Last year at this time, we were talking about the various Farm Bills. We were keeping our fingers crossed (about the addition of the food stamp program for farmers markets),” said Nischan, who formerly operated a gourmet restaurant in Connecticut with co-owner Paul Newman.

“In February, the Farm Bill passed with $100 million to fund doubling food stamps at farmers markets,” Nischan said, explaining the push for healthier foods for families in povery.

“Aspen and this event played a role in the bill passing, I’m convinced of that,” said Nischan, whose Wholesome Wave was designated by Food & Wine as a charity recipient six years ago.

“Food & Wine took a chance on us for their Grow for Good campaign six years ago … the support we’ve received here has allowed us to grow, to partner with more nonprofits,” he said.

From a modest start with eight farmers markets in three states participating with Wholesome Wave, “now we’re in 30 states with 500 markets,” Nischan said.

“… urban, rural, regardless of the community or ethnicity, people living in poverty want to feed their families well,” he said. “That’s the story we were able to take to Washington. Now, we couldn’t be more thrilled.”

Nischan said the exponential growth of the Food & Wine 5K adds even more momentum to the concept of providing healthier foods to people.

“It’s unbelievable. We had … what, 200 the first year. Then, last year. And this year … 500. And more and more people from the community,” Nischan said, adding that next year’s charity race should be even bigger.

dstrode@aspentimes.com


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