You Say You Want a Revolution . . .

by Bettina Elias Siegel on May 17, 2013

You guys, I feel like I’m walking on air today . . .

On a personal level, today marks my 15th year of wedded bliss with Mr. TLT  — now also known to the world as the evil “Mr. Zee!”

It also happens to be the birthday of one of my food heroes, Janet Poppendieck, whose seminal book Free For All: Fixing School Food in America led directly to my starting this blog back in 2010.  Happy birthday, JanPop!

But the big news is that today is also Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day, a day on which communities across the world come together to celebrate real food.  And on this particular Food Revolution Day, something especially exciting is going on.  The folks at Food Day just announced that they’re launching a new partnership with Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution team to ensure that every child in every school in America will have access to food education.  Bravo!

And that development leads me back to the rhyming children’s video I released earlier this week, “Mr. Zee’s Apple Factory.”

On Wednesday I explained to you the “why” behind the video:  like the folks at Food Day and the Food Revolution, I think one of the most important things we can do to reverse current unhealthful trends is to teach our children about real food and to get them thinking more critically about Big Food’s media messages.

But what has me especially excited today is not the “why” but the “how” of the video’s creation.

Ten years ago, if I’d gotten it into my head to write a children’s story, I’d have to pray that some publisher would agree the story was worthwhile, and then that a reader would be able to find my story on a crowded shelf at a local bookstore.  Trying to effectuate meaningful change through the medium of a children’s story would have been virtually impossible for a random person like me.

But now, with the power of the Internet, in just two days over 3,000 people have watched my video. And many readers have told me that teachers have already started sharing the video in school classrooms.   That’s just astonishing to me — and tremendously gratifying.

There are times when I, like many people, feel dismayed by the stronghold that the processed food and beverage industries seem to have over our elected leaders.  But with the equalizing power of the Internet, we’ve seen that we don’t always need our elected leaders to bring about change.

My online “pink slime” petition led to an improvement in USDA policy in a mere nine days.  Armed only with a hashtag (#FRD2103), Jamie Oliver today will bring thousands of people together from around the world to make common cause in support of real food and cooking literacy.   Scandalous food practices that in the past might have been buried in obscurity are today quickly brought to light and shared worldwide with the click of a mouse.   Sometimes companies listen to our concerns and sometimes they don’t, but even a “loss” is a win when individuals like 100 Days of Real Food and the Food Babe can get the national media to shine a spotlight on important food issues many consumers know nothing about.  And, closer to home, you and I can have daily conversations here on The Lunch Tray about the kid-and-food issues we care about, supporting each other, sharing resources — and sometimes even influencing the national conversation about food and food policy.

I’ve never felt more excited about the future of food.  Maybe the best way to wind up this rather giddy post (and no, my husband and I haven’t broken out the anniversary bubbly yet) is with this recent quote from Marion Nestle, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the publication of her groundbreaking book, Food Politics.

Despite  .  . . formidable [food industry] opposition, now is a thrilling time to be advocating for better food and nutrition, for the health of children, and for greater corporate accountability. As more people recognize how food companies influence government policies about agricultural support, food safety, dietary advice, school foods, marketing to children, and food labeling, they are inspired to become involved in food movement action.

Let’s stay inspired, people!  Happy Food Revolution Day!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Deb Neyens May 17, 2013 at 11:29 am

Congrats on the success of your video, Bettina, and Happy Anniversary to you and Mr. TLT. My husband and I will be celebrating 15 years one week from today.

Happy Food Revolution Day, too. You are making a difference!

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Aviva Goldfarb May 17, 2013 at 12:04 pm

What a fabulous day for you and America’s kids, Bettina, I am so thrilled about all the success you are having with bringing the healthy food message to kids and parents. Thank you!

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Stacy@School-Bites.com May 17, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Congrats on your video, Bettina, and thank you for providing so much inspiration!

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Elle May 17, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Bettina, I agree now is definitely the time to teach children about real food.

I’m not even sure how we got away from teaching children what real food is, maybe because once upon a time it wasn’t necessary. Think back to many years ago and all food was real food. There were not so many additives and artificial products in our food.

Kids today are more inclined to reach for a Little Debbie’s cupcake than an apple or even a homemade cupcake. All of our food now is processed and prepackaged.

This may make things quicker and easier in these fast paced times, but it definitely does not make it healthier.

Thank you for bringing us back to teaching children what real food actually is.

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Bettina Elias Siegel May 21, 2013 at 11:02 am

Thank you, all!

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