Restaurant founder wins peace award

Carissa Alaimo

Judy Wicks, co-owner and founder of the White Dog Café in Philadelphia, received the Adela Dwyer-St. Thomas of Villanova Peace Award from the Center for Peace and Justice on March 18 in the Connelly Cinema.

The Adela Dwyer-St. Thomas of Villanova Peace Award recognizes an individual or group for outstanding contributions to the understanding of the meaning and conditions of justice and peace in human communities.

Wicks is also the president of White Dog Community Enterprises, a nonprofit organization committed to building a local food system and living economy in the Philadelphia region. She is also chair and co-founder of the nationwide Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.

According to their Web site, the Center for Peace and Justice Education staff selects the award recipient from among the nominations from the Villanova community following careful consideration of the list of candidates and supporting materials.

Wicks received the award for her vision for a world living economy, her commitment to the fair trade movement and the localization movement, all of which promote investing in local communities.

The White Dog Café is a restaurant that supports social action causes with a particular emphasis on the environment.

The focus of Wicks’ establishment is to provide consumers with cuisine that is the result of socially responsible practices.

Wicks is committed to the sustainable living philosophy. For her restaurant, she advocates supporting local farmers and producers. For other products, she only buys ingredients through fair trade.

“We need to produce locally and then utilize fair trade for things we can’t get locally,” Wicks said.

Yet, produce and agricultural farming is not her only focus. Humane treatment of animals and cruelty-free livestock farming has also been a top priority for Wicks.

After learning about factory-farming of livestock a few years ago, she immediately pulled dishes off of the menu until she could provide a cruelty-free option.

Today, the entire White Dog Café’s menu is cruelty-free and only offers grass-fed beef, non-factory-farmed livestock and options prepared with cage-free eggs.

Factory farming is “destroying our sense of humanity and what it means to be a human being,” Wicks said. “Life should be enjoyable for all animals.”

The environment is another concern of Wicks, so she has made the transition and now she uses renewable energy sources to power the White Dog Café.

According to Wicks, wind energy is her chosen method, and wind turbines are now the energy sources which provide the electricity for her restaurant.

“Polluting the environment is a violation of nature,” Wicks said. “And food, water and energy security are all necessary components for world peace.”

Establishing a socially responsible business was not enough for Wicks. Instead, she wanted the opportunity to spread her ideas to the surrounding local area which is why she also founded White Dog Community Enterprises, a nonprofit organization committed to building a local food system and living economy in the Philadelphia region.

The work that Wicks does is interesting because it reflects her genuine passion for the principles she advocates.

For instance, 20 percent of the profits from the White Dog Café are put toward supporting fair food in wholesale and local markets in the area.

When businesses invest in practices that in turn they end up benefitting from in the long run, that creates a “living return that is necessary for a prosperous, sustainable world,” Wicks said.

At first, Wicks was satisfied with the White Dog Café’s unique market niche in the Philadelphia restaurant scene.

Yet, she realized that socially responsible business practices were too important not to share them with other establishments that also wanted to become more involved in social and environmental justice.

“A single sustainable business is only one part of a sustainable system as a whole,” Wicks said. “I realized that I needed to share my information with the competition in order to create a wholesome, local community based on principles.”

Wicks has made workers, animals, consumers and the environment alike a focus of her socially responsible business practices.

She is hopeful for the future direction and progress of the ideas that her restaurant and nonprofit organization advocate for, and she noted that the younger generation appears to be enthusiastic in continuing the vision of sustainability.

Her commitment to the localization movement, the fair trade movement, cruelty-free livestock farming, renewable energy and the sustainable community philosophy have all been major contributors in influencing other people and their businesses into going green.

“I hope that the White Dog [Café] will be a model for other businesses to become socially responsible,” Wicks said.

Some past recipients of the Adela Dwyer-St. Thomas of Villanova Peace Award include: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Congressman John Lewis and Jonathan Kozol.