It’s not just about honey; chefs and restaurants band together to advocate for bees because no bees means no food.

A coalition of chefs, restaurants, and members of the food industry was founded in February 2017 with the goal of saving bees. The group, called the Bee Friendly Food Alliance (BFF), is growing under the guidance of the environmental research and advocacy group Environment America.

The BFF network spans the United States and focuses on education and advocacy for bees. In one of their first actions, 235 chefs and restaurants sent a letter to the United States Environmental Protection Agency calling for a ban on bee-killing pesticides.

Food Tank had the opportunity to discuss the importance of bees and the BFF with Christy Leavitt, the Director of Partnerships for Environmental America.

Food Tank (FT): Who is involved in the BFF Alliance and what are its goals?

Christy Leavitt (CL): Environment America’s Bee Friendly Food Alliance is a national network of chefs, restaurant owners, and others in the food industry who are coming together to save the bees. For chefs and restaurant owners, it is up close and personal: no bees means no food.

With so much at stake for our food supply, if bee populations continue to die off, chefs and restaurant owners are speaking out to protect bees. So far, more than 80 food industry leaders, representing restaurants from family run pizza shops to fine dining destinations, have joined the Bee Friendly Food Alliance, and more are getting involved each week.

The goal of the Bee Friendly Food Alliance is to save the bees. Through the Alliance, chefs and restaurateurs help educate their customers, decision makers, and the public about the importance of bees to our food supply, the dramatic die-off bee populations are experiencing, and the need to protect these important pollinators.

FT: What are the key points outlining the problems facing bees?

CL: Millions of bees are dying off across the country with alarming consequences for our environment and our food supply. Beekeepers report they are losing an average of 30 percent of all honeybee colonies each winter—twice the loss considered sustainable.

Scientists point to several causes of the bee die-off, including climate change, habitat loss, parasites, and the increased use of a class of bee-killing pesticides called neonicotinoids, or neonics. Numerous independent studies confirm neonics are harmful to bees. Neonic use has increased dramatically over the past decade. For example, neonic use on corn has increased from 30 percent to nearly 80 percent since 2000.

When seeds are treated with neonics, the chemicals work their way into the pollen and nectar of the plants, which, of course, is bad news for bees and other pollinators. Neonics are about 6,000 times more toxic to bees than DDT—and you know we banned that pesticide decades ago!

FT: Other than honey, what food products are dependent on bee pollination?

CL: Bees, including honey bees as well as bumblebees and other wild bees, are critical to our food system. Bees pollinate 71 of…