Eating to heal the planet

Sanctuary Supper at Felix Neck will promote the climate change initiative high school students are undertaking.

Felix Neck education coordinator Josey Kirkland hands out Climate Action Plans for students to fill out at the end of the day. — Brittany Bowker

Most nonprofit organizations scramble to seek out picturesque Island locations for their summer benefits. But Felix Neck has the prettiest party setting possible right at home, its extensive 250-acre Edgartown wildlife sanctuary.

Next week’s unique Sanctuary Supper will take full advantage of the scenic venue, from sunset cocktails by the Butterfly Garden to dining tables commanding a view of meadow and pond. Music by Barbara Hoy and the Jaywalkers, dancing, and an upbeat live auction presided over by Trip Barnes will take place on the lawn and field under the stars.

Guests will hear remarks from Felix Neck director Suzan Bellincampi and Emily Gazzaniga, a Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) student.

This first-of-a-kind event will raise funds to support Felix Neck’s expanding climate change education programming.

“We’re really excited to put climate change education at the forefront of what we’re doing at Felix Neck,” said Josey Kirkland, education coordinator and camp director at the sanctuary.

Kirkland said that Mass Audubon and Felix Neck have long made climate education and awareness a priority, and that climate change topics have long been woven into Felix Neck’s educational activities. But most recently, climate change has become a major focus for many of these youth programs.

Successful Climate Cafes drew up to 50 participants from January until May to each of six informal gatherings to discuss a variety of climate-related topics. Planning is already underway for the upcoming season.

Concluding the school year on May 24, some 200 Island students in grades 5 through 12 attended an exciting and inspirational daylong Youth Climate Summit at Felix Neck. Thanks to enthusiastic response, it is slated to become an annual event. 

“It was obvious that we had to keep building off of this momentum,” said Kirkland.

Along with expanding Island-based programs and working with Protect Your Environment student groups at MVRHS and Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, Kirkland hopes to bring local students to a regional Massachusetts Audubon Youth Climate Summit on the Cape in November. “They can get involved with other like-minded students to work together, learn, and inspire each other,” said Kirkland.

She explained the goal of this educational work with students is exploring “how to adapt to and mitigate climate change effects on Martha’s Vineyard, getting them into solution-based thinking.”

 Kirkland said that most of the funds raised will be earmarked for climate change education, including enabling Vineyard students to attend the regional event. A smaller portion of the funds will go toward other Felix Neck programs and camp scholarships.

According to Bellincampi, the impact of climate change is already a shocking and visible reality at the sanctuary.


“We have lost a significant amount of shoreline, surprising since the property is protected by the barrier beach (State Beach),” she said. “A bench overlooking the pond has had to be moved twice, even though it was originally placed 8 feet from the edge of the bank. We are seeing the loss of salt marsh and are lucky that there is upland for the marsh to migrate.” 

The idea for a Sanctuary Supper evolved serendipitously after plant-based chef Kyleen Keenan was a guest speaker at the Climate Change Youth Summit. Keenan is co-founder of Not Your Sugar Mamas, and believes that it is possible to eat in a way that can heal our bodies and our planet. She suggested a dinner that could call attention to the benefits of plant-based eating and the environmental impacts of agriculture, while raising funds supporting climate education for young people.

“I am so honored to be doing this event — as I believe one of the fastest ways we can alleviate climate change is with what we put on our plates,” commented Keenan. “This cause is deeply aligned with my mission and important to my heart.”

Keenan’s menu includes hen of the woods chimichurri flatbread, zucchini Involtini with squash blossoms, and her scrumptious raw chocolate mousse with Grey Barn elderberries.

“It’s a great partnership,” said Kirkland.

She pointed out that traditional food production and eating practices have been found to have increasingly harmful impacts on the environment and changing climate. 

The delectable and unusual menu will feature a three-course all-vegan, locally sourced farm-to-table dinner. Even the cocktail hour will focus on locally sourced healthful offerings, wild sourced beverages and passed hors d’oeuvres.

“We wanted the event to be a learning experience as well as a fundraiser,” added Bellincampi about the plant-based menu. “This is walking the walk as well as talking the talk. Eating less mass-produced, commercial meat can benefit the environment and climate and we know how delicious this choice can be!”

According to Kirkland space is limited to approximately 100 guests, and ticket sales have been brisk. In addition to individual tickets, organizers are offering special packages including “Climate Hero” (eight tickets, $5,000) and “Climate Advocate “ (four tickets, $2,500). These patrons will receive special recognition and publicity for their generous support. 

“This is a great opportunity for a business, organization, or an individual to help fund climate change initiatives,” Kirkland said.

“This is a dinner that dreams are made of,” commented Keenan. “I saw at the Climate Summit how the next generation is stepping up, learning how to change the ways we live so that we can nurture and heal our planet — it nearly brought me to tears. The work they are doing is incredible!”

Sanctuary Supper, Tuesday, August 20, 6 to 10 pm. For info and tickets visit; or call 508-627-4850.