Bettina Elias Siegel is a nationally recognized writer and commentator on issues relating to children and food policy.
A graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School, Siegel practiced intellectual property, advertising and food law in New York City for almost a decade before turning to a career in freelance writing. In early 2010, Siegel became interested in improving the food in her children’s school district, Houston ISD, and soon after launched The Lunch Tray, a blog focusing on “kids and food, in school and out.”
Her writing on children and food has since appeared in numerous outlets, including the New York Times, the Guardian, the Houston Chronicle, the Huffington Post and in Civil Eats, a James Beard Award-winning food policy publication to which Siegel is a regular contributor.
Siegel has appeared frequently on national and local television and radio, including the Today Show, The Doctors, ABC World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News and Anderson, and she has been featured or quoted in a wide variety of publications, including the New Yorker, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Associated Press, Texas Monthly, Politico and the Houston Chronicle. (Press and writing links here.)
NOTABLE ADVOCACY WORK
Online Petition Campaigns
Siegel has spearheaded three victorious Change.org petition campaigns, making her one of the most successful petitioners in the organization’s history. All three petitions related to school children and food:
- The first, in 2012, quickly garnered over 250,000 signatures and led the USDA to change its policy on “lean, finely textured beef” (aka “pink slime”) in school food ground beef.
- The second, launched with a fellow advocate in 2014, sought to keep chicken processed in China out of school meals. It also went viral, garnering almost 330,000 signatures and resulting in victory.
- Siegel launched her third petition in late 2015 after breaking an exclusive story on The Lunch Tray regarding a highly misleading “nutrition education” video which McDonald’s hoped to show in schools. The petition garnered 90,000 signatures, was covered on the front page of the Washington Post, the Today Show and The Doctors, leading McDonald’s to scrap its plans for the initiative.
School Food Reform and School Wellness
In her writing, public speaking and advocacy work, Siegel has been a vocal supporter of improved federal school nutrition standards, curbing junk food sales on school campuses and otherwise improving children’s school food environments. She also remains active in local school food reform. Since 2010, she has been a member of Houston ISD’s School Health Advisory Council (SHAC). From 2010 to 2016, she also served on the Houston ISD Nutrition Services Parent Advisory Committee.
Education and Outreach Efforts
Siegel has written a free and widely-downloaded 50-page ebook advising parents on how to get junk food out of their children’s classroom. She has also authored and illustrated a rhyming children’s video about processed food, “Mr. Zee’s Apple Factory,” which has been widely viewed and used by teachers in the U.S. and internationally as part of their nutrition education curricula.
AWARDS AND OTHER RECOGNITION
Siegel has been named:
- one of the “20 Most Influential Moms of 2015” by Family Circle
- one of the “Top 15 Most Important Moms in the Food Industry” by (the former) Elizabeth Street (2014)
- one of Houston’s “41 Most Fascinating People” by the Houston Chronicle (2012)
- a “Food Hero” by the Allergy Kids Foundation (2011)
The Lunch Tray has been:
- chosen as a “Blog of the Month” by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution
- recognized by Rachel Ray’s Yum-O! Foundation
- voted a Circle of Moms “Top 25 Foodie Mom” blog
- noted for its Twitter feed, which was named by Food Tank in 2013 as one of “118 Twitter Feeds Every Food Activist Needs to Follow.”
Siegel lives in Houston with her husband and two children. She can be reached on Twitter at @thelunchtray or via email at bettina at thelunchtray dot com.