This website is an initiative of J-Lab.

Who's Blogging

American Food RootsAmerican Food Roots
Bonny Wolf
- NPR commentator and food writer
Michele Kayal
- Associated Press food and cultural writer
Domenica Marchetti
- Cookbook author
Carol Guensburg
- Scripps Howard News Service national desk editor

Click for full bio.
Visit American Food Roots.

Recent Posts

Project Blog: American Food Roots

A StoryCorps-meets-James Beard initiative to tell the nation's cultural, historical and personal food stories in video, audio and text. It is the brainchild of NPR commentator and food writer Bonny Wolf, Associated Press food and cultural writer Michele Kayal, cookbook author Domenica Marchetti, and former food editor Carol Guensburg. They are close to announcing partnerships with national institutions and media to publicize, expand and preserve the canon of American food stories.

AFT Nabs 2 Top Food Journalism Awards

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Association of Food Journalists has given American Food Roots two of its top 2014 awards. AFR was named "best food blog" and and the "best non-newspaper feature" award went to co-founder Carol Guensburg '“Step right up! Circus food is no sideshow stunt!”

   • Posted by Jan Schaffer on 11/25 at 10:42 AM

American Food Roots: Developing Partnerships and Ads

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Update from Michele Kayal
AFR Co-Founder

In its first 15 months of operations, American Food Roots has published more than 325 stories, videos and recipes. It recently added a podcast that will soon be available on iTunes.

AFR editors have become regulars on the conference circuit. Since receiving the NMWE grant, we have spoken at the Food Book Fair in NYC, Monticello’s Heritage Harvest Festival, Les Dames d’Escoffier and the Journalism and Women Symposium. This spring, we will speak at the Roger Smith Food and Technology Conference in NYC and at Love and Hate in the Kitchen conference exploring the social issues around cooking . We have appeared twice on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, which airs on WAMU, Washington, DC’s NPR affiliate. We also launched a quiz segment on local television.

We have made tremendous progress on the financial front. We received our first direct ad, from Michigan State University Press, advertising the first in a series of historical cookbooks, Food in the CIvil War Era.  The ad, beginning in April 2014, will run for two months. We launched AFR in December 2012 with a fundraising party that brought in $850. At this year’s party, we received $2,300 in donations. A donate button on the site has generated about $700.

However, we do not plan to exist on donations. The money from J-Lab allowed us to hire a business consultant, who helped us jumpstart our social media strategy, understand and apply our analytics and forge ties with other experts.  We now have a highly engaged social media presence, with 1,050 Facebook likes and 1,534 Twitter followers. One of our videos, on Wisconsin frozen custard, was named a Vimeo Best Video for 2013.

AFR now attracts more than 14,000 unique visitors a month and our newsletter reaches 750 readers each week with a 40 percent click-through rate. Constant Contact, our newsletter platform, named us among their 2013 All-Stars, a designation assigned fewer than 10 percent of their users.

The grant has also allowed us to engage an ad sales representative who has just begun work, and a startup strategist who is helping us refine our vision and test our theories along the lines of the Lean Startup doctrine.

We are in active discussions about partnership – financial, content or both – with a major food company, two grocery chains and a restaurant group. An early collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution continues.

New partners include Georgetown University. This semester we welcomed our first intern from the graduate journalism program, and expect to expand our involvement to the marketing and public relations departments this summer. We have also partnered with University of North Carolina’s Global South initiative,
to which we donate 2 percent of all contributions we receive. In return, we will be listed as sponsors of their 2015 conference and will also be asked to present.

And we soon plan to launch some revenue-generating events at the Eastern Market in Washington, D.C.

   • Posted by Justin Warren on 04/10 at 02:01 PM

American Food Roots shares our culinary history

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Hows the caviar in Texas?

NMWE 2013 winner American Food Roots' new project proves that, even in a global world, local cuisine preserves its flavor. The new 50 States Initiative wants to share local dishes with everyone accross the U.S and the globe. Whether you are looking for cheese and game meat in Wisconsin or want to know which beer to pair with a SPAM supper, the 50 States Initiative will dislodge regional food secrets for the world to know.

   • Posted by Jan Schaffer on 03/04 at 12:35 PM

Strategic Parnering for Start Ups

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

J-Lab, American University's SOC and MAME programs, The National Press Club sponsored the New Media Women Entrepreneurs: Making New Ideas Happen summit. The summit featured 11 talks on how to make a start-up work. Watch the other talks on Vimeo.


Michele Kayal, co-founder of American Food Roots, reveals the best way to partner strategically and build a new media project.



Making Your Start Up Work: Strategic Partnering - Michele Kayal from J-Lab on Vimeo.

   • Posted by Justin Warren on 02/12 at 02:58 PM

Public Radio Spot and “Found Recipes” Feature

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

kojo113Kojo Nnamdi The big fun this month was our appearance on The Kojo Nnamdi show. During a half-hour spot with the WAMU radio host, Bonny Wolf and Michele Kayal discussed half-smokes, horseradish and our American food heritage. Kojo kindly helped us promote stories on the site, such as one about switchel (think Shaker Gatorade) and asked listeners to call in with story ideas. We’re hoping we may have talked him into doing a video for My American Roots.

We’ve also seen increased reader engagement in the last couple of weeks. One reader asked us to help her find a recipe for her grandmother’s brown bread baked in a coffee can. We happily plunged in, and even launched a new feature called “Found Recipes.” (Current reader request: peanut soup.) We’ve also received several contributions to our summer slideshow campaign on farmer’s markets. Entries have come from readers in New York, Virginia and North Carolina.


   • Posted by Michele Kayal on 07/16 at 09:55 AM

AFR has TV Segment; Video, Book Deals in the Works

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

American Food Roots has had another busy month.

Perhaps most exciting was the debut of our monthly television segment “State Secrets,” where co-founder Bonny Wolf quizzes WUSA9 host JC Hayward about state food traditions. Quick: which state produces the most milk? Eats “white” barbecue? Invented Welch’s grape juice? Check out the segment to find out.

We are moving closer to our goal of working with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.  The curator of the Food exhibit that opened last fall has asked us to tape My American Roots videos at least twice a year in conjunction with that show. We’ll keep you posted.

On the revenue front, talks continue with a publishing house about a possible collaboration on books. We have also begun making contact with potential corporate sponsors.

Events are also emerging as a potential source of revenue. Our first event will be an old-fashioned ice cream social, which we are planning for July 28. The historic Eastern Market on Capitol Hill has offered to be our venue. We are now looking for vendors to supply (did we say “donate”?) ice cream. Let us know if you run into anyone with several hundred gallons of ice cream to give away.

Our search continues for an SEO consultant and for someone to help us with social media. We have received a few proposals, but we are still hoping for an SEO fairy with expertise in journalism.

And finally, we are in search of a “fiscal agent,” a nonprofit entity with which we can partner in order to take advantage of grant opportunities. A fiscal agent would also make it easier for organizations that want to offer us donations.

That’s all for now. Hope to have oodles of good news next month.

   • Posted by Chris Holt on 06/12 at 01:57 PM

Building Buzz and Connections

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

By Michele Kayal, Co-Founder

We’ve had a couple of big weeks at AFR.

In early May, we were panelists at the Food Book Fair in New York, where we discussed food and culture with a nearly sold-out audience. We talked to people until we were hoarse at our booth the following day, and collected more than three dozen new subscribers to our newsletter. Enticements during our panel, a trip to Smorgasburg (Brooklyn’s hip, outdoor food court) and lots of charm at our booth landed us more than 20 new videos for My American Roots.

During the same weekend, we had a 45-minute interview with Heritage Radio Network that should air soon. We hope some of their 3 million listeners will join the site. Heritage Radio also expressed an interest in working with us in the future.

On the money and marketing front, a brainstorming session with M&R Strategic Services (another favor from a friend) provided excellent ideas for driving more traffic to the site. We’re in conversation about an AFR imprint with a major publisher of antiquarian and American books, and hope this might produce a steady source of revenue.



   • Posted by Michele Kayal on 05/14 at 01:49 PM