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Food on the front lines: 'Lidia Celebrates America' honors first responders

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Michelle Rose / TV Media
Lidia Bastianich hosts "Lidia Celebrates America: A Salute to First Responders"

Lidia Bastianich hosts "Lidia Celebrates America: A Salute to First Responders"

Anyone who's ever heard or used the term "hangry" knows that food, or more likely a lack of food, can affect our moods and behaviors. Though it should be noted that our feelings also impact our food choices and preferences — just look at all the lockdown bread-making and stress baking that went on in early 2020.

The right foods can help lower the risk of depression and reduce stress, ultimately improving the body's ability to fight disease and infection. Good nutrition takes on added importance for our first responders as they're the ones we count on to show strength and resilience in a time of crisis. All this having been said, finding the time to recharge and eat right isn't easy when you don't know how your work day will play out from one minute to the next.

The foods and food traditions that keep our first responders fit for duty, and the food challenges they face, are the focus of the latest one-hour special from award-winning celebrity chef and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich. "Lidia Celebrates America: A Salute to First Responders" begins its run on PBS this Friday, Jan. 29, but be sure to check your local listings for the next little while as member stations have the final say when it comes to scheduling.

Police officers, firefighters, paramedics, military personnel and health-care workers — this special is dedicated to them. The camera follows Bastianich as she travels from coast to coast to meet with people who are serving on the front lines and working in the shadows to keep us safe. With a food story behind each segment, viewers will get a chance see how nutrition plays an important role in their lives.

Produced by WGBH, the "Lidia Celebrates America" specials are an annual culinary journey that focuses on a different theme each year — the previous edition (2019) highlighted the rise of food artisans and artisanal crafts. This year's focus on first responders is timely given the events that shook the world in 2020, though the theme appears to have been chosen early in the year.

In an August 2020 interview with Parade, the host of the popular series "Lidia's Kitchen" talked about the work that went into this new special and indicated that, "the spring and early summer shoots were postponed due to the pandemic … the stories are also continuously evolving, due to the ever-changing situation with COVID-19." (Recipe lovers, take note: the interview also revealed that Bastianich was working on a one-pot meal cookbook.)

After all those challenges, viewers will see the end result when "Lidia Celebrates America: A Salute to First Responders" premieres on PBS. Check your local listings for airdate and time.