October 22, 2011

From the visceral to the cerebral to the political

At Kaiser Permanente's recent Food For Health Forum, 200 people of many different professions from KP and other organizations heard Bryant Terry, chef and cookbook author, working at the intersection of food and social justice, suggest one of the best ways to get people involved in a movement is through their taste and stomach. Michel Nischan, chef, restauranteur, and CEO of Wholesome Wave, told us about the amazing results of his program to double the value of nutrition assistance programs subsidies spent on fruits and vegetables at farmers markets around the country. A $1.2 million grant from KP will allow him to start the program in another 30 communities. Dr. Ted Schettler and Patrice Sutton were joined by journalist and editor David Tuller to start the day talking about the real impacts of the foods we eat on health from preconception to the aged. We heard David Mas Masumoto, organic peach farmer, talk about the realities of rot on nectarines and about the concept that our food can be imperfect as are we. Jim Durst of Durst Organics farms 400 acres. It's so clear that earthworms are the "canary" in our soil.

Jim just shared the results of a thirty year study with me done at the Rodale Institute comparing conventional farming to organic farming saying that study just proved what organic farmers already know --- organic farming had higher yields per acre, less greenhouse gas emissions, and required less costly inputs. It takes hands to grow food this way and Jim has many respected hands helping him on his farm.

Katrina Heron, editor at Newsweek, moderated the discussion with the two farmers about the realities of the complex work they do.

Mollie Katzen, author of 2 of the 25 top selling cookbooks, inspired us all to get back in the kitchen and to cook more like her grandmother than her mother. Anyone can do it.

Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and co-producer of Food, Inc was our keynote speaker talking about the challenges of creating health in the fast food environment in which we live. As moderator for the day, I got to tell a story about how his work has changed someone's life.

An older women talked to me after a recent speech and cooking demonstration I did in the Sacramento area and shared she had traveled to Berkeley to see Food, Inc about a year ago. She talked about how the lessons learned in the film resulting in her totally changing her eating habits and those of her extended family. She's lost 50 pounds. Her overweight grandson is losing weight and had gone to a health camp. Her other grandchildren emailed her while a vacation that they were unable to find the kind of food Grandma told them they should eat while on the road.

I bet we would all be healthier if we listened to her.