In Praise of Food Activism, Big & Small

by Sally on February 18, 2014

In Praise of Food Activism, Big & Small by Real Mom Nutrition

Have you noticed that regular people are doing some very big stuff?

Vani Hari (aka Food Babe) gets the attention of major food companies by exposing some of the questionable ingredients in their products–and demanding they do better. In response to her widely-circulated blog posts, Chik-fil-A is removing artificial dyes from its sauces and dressings (and switching to antibiotic-free chicken within five years). Her petition (along with Lisa Leake of 100 Days of Real Food) asking Kraft to get artificial dyes out of their macaroni and cheese garnered more than a quarter million signatures (a few months later, Kraft announced they would be phasing out dyes from some of their products too). Now Subway says it’s eliminating a controversial dough conditioner called azodicarbonamide from its breads, an announcement made the same week Hari began a petition asking them to remove it.

In 2012, Bettina Siegel of The Lunch Tray started an online petition asking the USDA to get rid of lean finely textured beef (aka “pink slime”) from school lunches. The issue gained widespread attention from the national media and ultimately led the USDA to start giving schools a choice of whether they wanted beef with or without “pink slime” for school lunches–with most districts choosing to phase it out.

Now Siegel, along with activists Nancy Huehnergarth and Barbara Kowalcykhas, has a new petition asking the USDA to ban chicken processed in China from being served in U.S. school lunches. The concern: China’s  disturbing history of food safety violations, including tainted baby formula and rat meat sold as lamb. If the thought of Chinese processors handling the chicken in your kids’ school lunches worries you too, please join the 300,000-plus people and sign it.

Because the simple act of signing and adding your voice to the chorus makes YOU a food activist too. You know what else does?

  • Asking your child’s preschool teacher if the kids could be served water instead of juice.
  • Emailing your child’s soccer coach about eliminating team snacks.
  • Pitching in with health and wellness programs at your child’s school.
  • Asking the PTA president if fresh fruit could be made available at the school carnival.
  • Organizing your child’s class party and bringing healthy foods.

Every week, I hear from moms all across the country who are trying to make things better, not only for their own kids, but for ALL kids in their communities. They are activists in their schools and neighborhoods, and they’re making meaningful change. And all of these shifts in thinking and policy–no matter how small they seem–can add up to something really big.

Want more ideas on getting started? Read “Be Bold. Take Action. Make Change.” and check out School Bites and KYHealthyKids, two moms doing great things in their children’s schools and communities.

Need resources for making healthy snack changes with a sports team (including coach and parent emails you can copy and customize)? Read “Sports Snacktivism Handbook“.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Hanna Saltzman February 18, 2014 at 11:23 am

So inspiring! Every level of activism makes a difference – from local schools to international policy. And it’s so true that small shifts in thinking & policy can (and WILL! and DO!) collectively create phenomenal change.

Sally February 18, 2014 at 11:26 am

Thanks Hanna. And thanks for all YOU do to help create that change too! :)

Caron February 18, 2014 at 11:28 am

Great post! It is truly amazing how much of a difference one person (or a few united folks) can make!

Sally February 18, 2014 at 11:30 am

Thanks Caron. And ditto what I just said to Hanna–thank YOU for all that you do too! I think I need a follow-up post to give shout-outs to so many of you amazing women.

Casey February 18, 2014 at 11:37 am

Jump in! The water’s fine. Happy to be included in this group with some of my favorite food activists and thank you!

Sally February 18, 2014 at 11:37 am

Casey–ha! :)

Heather February 18, 2014 at 12:23 pm

I know this isn’t much, but when I go in for school parties, I always bring a pitcher of water and some small cups. I’m always surprised that there are several kids who request water instead of juice or even “juice”. Not just my kids. Plus lots of times moms who bring juice bring boxes and one for every kid. so when they are thirsty I can pour them some juice. Nothing wrong with water bottles, but i”m way to cheap for that!

Sally February 18, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Heather–hooray! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Love that!

Lexie Wolf February 18, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Great post. Any small thing we can all do to change the food environment where we spend time or our children spend time helps!

Stacy@School-Bites.com February 18, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Thank you, Sally!! I am so honored to be included, and it truly helps inspire me to keep up the fight. Is that photo from your class Valentine’s Day party? If so, can I share on FB? Thanks for all you’re doing and long live #Snacktivism!!

Sally February 18, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Thanks Stacy! And no, that’s actually a photo that a friend of mine took of the class party she organized. Her husband cut the veggies out with a heart-shaped cutter. (I’ll email you about using it on your page.)

Sally February 18, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Thanks Lexie. And YES, these small changes to the food environment ALL help.

Danielle Omar - Food Confidence RD February 18, 2014 at 4:10 pm

As parents we see the irony all around us, we teach our kids about being healthy at home, yet sell them pizza, chips and soda at every school event and birthday party. I have felt powerless to change it but your post is a great reminder that one courageous person CAN make a difference.

Sally February 18, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Danielle–you are so right about the irony around us. For instance, schools try to incorporate nutrition and wellness into the lessons but then many of them have cookie dough fundraisers and sell a la carte junk in the lunchroom (glad my kids’ school doesn’t do either of those, but I know they are common). One person really can make a difference–sometimes all it takes is one person bringing the irony to everyone’s attention! That’s what happened with soccer snacks.

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