UNCSA Dance alumna and entrepreneur describes her mission to change relationships with food

UNCSA presents An Artist’s Journey to Change our Relationship with Food, a town-hall style event by alumna Jenny Best, a former dancer with New York City Ballet and founder and CEO of the award-winning social enterprise Solid Starts. The event will offer an informative and eye-opening conversation with UNCSA Dean of Dance Endalyn Taylor about the former professional dancer’s personal journey from performing artist to entrepreneur and her work to change our relationship with and understanding of food.

The free event is at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 17 in Watson Hall of the School of Music Complex on the UNCSA campus at 1533 South Main St. and will also be livestreamed. Guests are asked to register online for the in-person event or the livestream.

Jenny Best

Jenny Best

Best, who studied in the High School Dance program, was named Artpreneur of the Year for 2021 by Chancellor Brian Cole. She received $10,000 to support Solid Starts, an enterprise with the only comprehensive multidisciplinary team of professionals in the baby food and feeding space. Recently featured on “Good Morning America,” Solid Starts provides resources and community and serves as a bridge over cultural divides to help reverse the negative impacts of outdated infant feeding recommendations, including force feeding and diet culture.

“In a world deeply changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, entrepreneurship is more important than ever,” Cole said. “There are boundless opportunities in the creative industries for those who are innovative, skilled and nimble, like Jenny Best. She exemplifies many of our alumni who have followed their passion, leveraging conservatory training and creative vision to build meaningful careers.” 

UNCSA defines an artpreneur as “an artist who is not defined by what is, but inspired by all that could be; who is business savvy and technologically aware; who is devoted to creating value and impact through their creative practice; who reaches beyond existing disciplines to create new ways to connect with others; who is willing to take creative risks in order to positively transform our world.”

As founder and CEO of Solid Starts, Best leads a team of more than 20 experts including pediatricians, nationally recognized pediatric feeding therapists, an award-winning allergist, pediatric dietitians and nutritionists, and an equity, diversity and inclusion coach. She has built the Solid Starts brand by educating families with fact-based information via the First Foods database, which has over a million users. Solid Starts also has an app and social media platforms such as Instagram, with more than 960,000 followers.

Solid Starts seeks to economically impact systemic discrimination in baby food and child nutrition by recruiting BIPOC+ (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) dieticians and nutritionists and creating paid intern and fellowship programs that prioritize students of color in the field of nutrition; providing complimentary access to feeding and nutrition guides for low-income families; and advocating for representation of BIPOC+ families in baby food, feeding and child nutrition imagery and videos.

Best is a mother of three, including twin toddlers. Prior to launching Solid Starts, she led global communications at One Acre Fund and Slow Food USA and served in the administration of Mike Bloomberg when he was mayor of New York City. After dancing with New York City Ballet, she graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in politics from New York University. Best, who lives in Brooklyn, also works as an executive communications coach.

The Artpreneur of the Year Award is supported by a grant from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation and the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, with additional support from Margaret Scales and Graydon Pleasants and the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts. The Artpreneur Awards are administered and facilitated by the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts.

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October 14, 2021