USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan (USDA)

Among the honorees are Jason Clay , senior vice president market transformation for the World Wildlife Fund, and Kathleen Merrigan , deputy secretary of agriculture for the USDA. The other winners include author/farmer/voice of his generation Wendell Berry, Rainforest Alliance President Tensie Whelan and Malik Yakini, executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network.

“We are particularly thrilled to be recognizing two recipients from the Washington, D.C. area: Dr. Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Fund and Dr. Kathleen Merrigan of the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation, said in a statement for All We Can Eat. “Dr. Clay and Dr. Merrigan are being recognized because of their effective leadership in creating environmental and agricultural programs to bring about a more healthful, safer food world.”

This is the second year that the foundation has passed out the Leadership Award, which honors individuals who have implemented “specific outstanding initiatives” or developed an outstanding body of work over a lifetime, according to a news release. Last year, first lady Michelle Obama was among the inaugural winners of the Leadership Award.

According to the foundation, Clay was honored for “his efforts to study and address the global social, environmental and economic impact of a variety of commodities, and his cross-sector work to improve the sustainability and supply chain management of these commodities.”

In her public role, Merrigan was acknowledged for “her efforts to strengthen the critical connection between farmers and consumers, create new opportunities for farmers and ranchers, support regional food infrastructure and bring agriculture into our daily conversations through efforts such as USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative,” the foundation noted.

All five recipients will be honored at a dinner that’s part of the foundation’s two-day Food Conference Oct. 17-18 in New York. Visit the Beard Foundation Web site for more details on the dinner.

Further reading:

* First lady earns James Beard Leadership Award