An Update on Mr. Zee!

by Bettina Elias Siegel on May 22, 2013

Last week I released on YouTube a rhyming children’s video, “Mr. Zee’s Apple Factory,” which I wrote and illustrated to help teach young kids to think more critically about processed food and Big Food’s advertising.  (More on what motivated me to do so here.)

mr zee

Mr. Zee is ready for his close-up.

When you’re one person going up against Big Food’s almost $2 billion in annual children’s advertising expenditures, it’s always going to be an uphill battle to get your message heard.  But thanks to you, my amazing Lunch Tray readership, Mr. Zee is off to an excellent start!  The video has received an average of about 900 new views a day – or 6,000 total views in just one week.  (OK, so it’s not “Gangnam Style,” but still pretty great!)

The video was tweeted by many of my food heroes, including Michael Moss (Salt Sugar Fat), Melanie Warner (Pandora’s Lunchbox), Laurie David, Chef Ann Cooper, Nancy Huehnergarth, 100 Days of Real Food and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  It’s also starting to get coverage from respected bloggers and writers and, gratifyingly, each of these posts have added to the larger conversation about kids, food and media.

For example, yesterday Dana Woldow published in Beyond Chron an interview with me about the making of the video.  But the real thrust of the piece is how the food industry is increasing its use of nontraditional — and entirely free — forms of advertising such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to reach our kids in hopes of turning them into unwitting marketers for unhealthful products.  The good news, as Dana points out, is that concerned parents and advocates can also harness these same free social media channels to share their own counter-messages, just as I’ve tried to do with Mr. Zee.

Tireless food advocate Robyn O’Brien shared the video on her Prevention blog, Inspired Bites, and said it evoked for her the 1970s classic “Free to Be You and Me.”  The video is definitely not worthy of that comparison but I loved how Robyn urges us all to leverage our collective talents to make the changes we want to see in our food system.

Today Casey Hinds of KY Healthy Kids features the video in a post entitled “Teaching Kids to Love the Foods that Love them Back,” in which she recounts the last six years of educating her daughter on the principles of healthful eating — and the uphill battle she’s faced in today’s food environment.

Gina Rau writes the wonderful Feed our Families blog and though she and I “met” way back in 2010 when our blogs were  chosen as Blogs of the Month by Jamie Oliver, we only just learned that we both have experience working in the processed food industry — proof that you can cross over from the Dark Side.  :-)  She was kind enough to give the video a lovely write-up here.

I also want to thank: Laurie David’s The Family Dinner Book, Bri of Red, Round or Green (my jingle singer!), Dr. Dina Rose of It’s Not About NutritionVeggieevangilist, Robin Shreeves of the Mother Nature Network, and Cooking Sprouts for spreading the word; Christina Le Beau for adding Mr. Zee to her blog Spoonfed‘s list of resources; and the many TLT friends, including Grains & More, Time at the Table, Eat Dinner, Real Mom Nutrition, Eating Rules and School Bites, for sharing and tweeting the video.

I’ll keep you updated now and then on the video’s progress and thank you again for sharing it via Facebook and Twitter.  By the way, the video now has its own Twitter hashtag:  #MrZee.  What else?  :-)

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna May 22, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Go Bettina and Mr. Zee!!

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Bettina Elias Siegel May 22, 2013 at 4:54 pm

And go “Little Girl,” the star of the show! :-)

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Elle May 22, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Bettina, I must say “Hurray for Mr. Zee.”

This is such a cute way to reach out and connect with children.

I agree that we need to make changes in our food system and applaud you for being a part of that change.

Processed food has taken over. That is what you see everywhere.

I do understand that it is a convenience factor for many people, but it is typically not healthy.

We need to teach children to plan ahead and eat healthy. It is time to put down the prepackaged foods and grab something homemade.

Thank you for your help and thank you for Mr. Zee!

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Bettina Elias Siegel May 22, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Thank you, Elle, for your encouragement!

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