Food Blogging for the Next Generation - Finding Solutions at the Intersection of Childhood Obesity and Food Insecurity in the USA



Anna Lappe
Elly Spinweber
Lea Webb
Michelle Berger Marshall
Moderator, Lisa Stone

We are in the process of creating a community farmers market so that we have fresh food year round. We have limited access to grocery stores as well as limited access to public transportation. Getting a loaf of bread can take you several hours; we are trying to create a food utopian with the help of the government to create resources on the ground for the community. I think that in the next few years you will see a large growth in urban farms. We are going back to our native roots. Changing the face of hunger starts at the community level.

Lisa: How did we get here? What would your top line approach to resolution be?

Anna: I think that one of the things we try to do is communicate the root causes of the hunger causes. Inspire people to connect the dots. 1 in 6 people in this country is at the food crisis level. Obesity doesn't tell the full store, it’s about health issues like diabetes and the diet crisis. The crisis of diet and the crisis of hunger are the two issues, but they are two sides of the same coin. Policy and access choices have made it very hard for people to get the foods needed. 30% of food dollar is spent on the transportation to get to food. That is an automatic 30% mark up.
A lot of our work is connecting the dots. So many of the issues that we care about are bigger, public transportation and environments are part of the issues. If you don’t truly understand the problem you can come up with solutions.

My mother has been writing about food since before I was born. We have been writing together since I was in grad school. I am the co-author of a book we wrote together discussing the food issues around the world. All around the country there is incredible work happening. There is wonderful work happening in west Oakland, community of 30,000 with no grocery stores. They attempted to have a chain store come in, with no resolve. They chose to build their own. They are launching the peoples market; they are in the stage of gathering investors to build a market that will fit the needs of the specific community.

Ellie: PNJ brings the private sector to table 1 in 3 children have diabetes. There are many health issues that they become at risk for. We want to make the healthier choice easier for people to make. We know what the healthier choices are; we want to make it as easy as possible to make the right choice. We work with brands such as Nike, Reebok, and Wal-Mart to make this happen. It isn’t going to be one thing that does it, but all pieces of the community that have to work together to do it.

Anna: What Key brands that many of us shop with and employee significant populations.

Elly: Wal-Mart is opening stores in food deserts. They are re-formulating products, when people are in the store products are the same price, whole wheat and white bread, decreases produce prices as well.

Open the floor for questions...

Audience: Social media platform developer for people to food restrictions: Childhood allergies are growing as well. Near and dear to her heart after adopting a child from rural Arkansas. What can we do to make sure that the person living in the food desert is able to obtain foods that are allergen free?

It’s as much education as availability.

Ellie: Increase of food allergies is definitely related. One of the things that we know is that the majority of us are consuming foods that are highly processed and have many additives, much more than we did a decade ago. One of the things that we advocate for the benefits of whole foods, we are starting to see some great policy ideas. We are pioneering support from farmers market to accept EBT or SNAP.

People also need education on ways to use the foods; they are offering cooking demos by nutritionist in the area. The decide ways that people are hungry for the information as well as the food.

Elly: I would totally agree with this. We are part of the healthy lifestyles coalition at home. 25-30 non profits, small business, we talked about cooking classes in the neighborhood. Working faith based organizations that have kitchens. You have to meet people where they are. Food insecurity is a man made issue, it’s an issue we can change. The policies and the education are needed.

Wal-Mart is really starting to carry a lot of gluten free and soy products, they are embarrassing the demographics and the changes needed. People are starting to catch on. The education and the empowerment go hand in hand. We want to take away the shame factor away from this.

Michele: For people with all the allergies in the world, it’s very hard to throw in the other issues, such as dealing with gluten. We have made some great efforts with produce growers to help move more fresh produce. It’s a huge movement.

What is so cool about food banking, these people are creative, they are providing food education, demonstrations, other benefit programs and they are seeing what they can do with that food. It’s more empowering to people to make those choices.

Anna: Ellie do you feel like there is enough of a sense of corporate responsibility or corporate involvement?

Ellie: Bird's eye is a great example. They are a company that really want to see kids eat healthier and have seen a great increase in business as a result of it.

We have 60 partners. The companies that join are in it because they believe in it. Some of the companies that are bring in store to food deserts are regional grocers. They believe that you have to take care of the community and they will take care of you.

Audience: Reagan Jones, Registered Dietician: Thank you for BlogHer for hosting this session. I have lived in the south east all of my life and I see so many families that are living in the rural areas. Markets may be an hour away. Rural areas are struggling and what is being done to address this area?

Lea: Complete Streets policy, making sure that the area is bike friendly and accessible. 1 out of 4 children in my city live in poverty, it’s a major issue. The children take breaks in school to make time for physical activity. We are looking at programs to help kids walk to school, for safety, community involvement and healthier activity.

We are investing in parks; private partners are stepping up to build a spray park. Those are just some of the things we are doing in our community to address the environment. Composting is another issue, how are we working for the environment as well.

Michelle: There are a lot of issues, and they are often pitted against each other when it comes to advocating for an issue. Rural hungry and obesity is a real issue, access is a large part of this. In the last year or so we have come to recognize that it is only part of it. Food deserts aren't only in the larger cities. They all want to address hunger, but do it in very different ways. 6 of 10 counties with the highest food insecurity rates are right here in Texas, according to the food gap that will be release on Monday. We need intense interventions that can be addressed on different levels.

I think one of the first things we can do as a food community is to sit around the table and see how with all of our expertise we can come together to form solutions.

Anna: Its wildly disproportionate effect of children and minorities.
What can this community do?

Critical to name it, and the frame that we are talking about it. It’s everyone, we all have to eat. It’s very diverse over the last 10-15 years, in my district i see it every day. Once we name it we can change it. The blogging community has an amazing power to get the stories out there. Write about a person in your community that can access public transit. What does this look like for the families? IT shifts the power to change these things. It’s a mindset change. People don't understand how people across this country are handling change. We decided to bring the public hearing to you. We decided to organize to forum. Mothers with their children, people of all races, ages and with their families. 50 people came to city hall to share why this issue was important. We have a public hearing scheduled in 2 weeks. The work is not done, we still have to get it passed. The negatives were issues with composting, smell, rodents. But is does save people money. Also bee keeping, related to allergies, but there are important parts of the eco system. It’s important to be proactive and not reactive. Blogger can put the issues out there. In community with low income, people still have smart phones. They are accessing this information. We have a Facebook page to educate and empower the decision makers.

Anna: there are always we can all support, social media and Facebook pages. There has been a lot of research done behind the marketing of sodas to teen. African American teens see 80% more ads for sodas than their white counterparts.

Seeing the ads make us consume more calories, not even to the brands that we are being marketed to. 2 billion dollars spent marketing to teens annually. This money is being spent to market to small children. We should be creating marketing free areas like our schools.

Lisa: Can corporations do responsible marketing?

Elly: Yes, It’s easy to throw money at a movement but the challenge is to change the products. What do the pictures on the kids menus look like? These are the smaller steps that they can make that will make a large impact.

If they'll eat the carrots put them in front of them. Rather than say you can't have this, try and encourage the healthier choice. We are trying to build the environment that healthy choices are as easy to make as the unhealthy ones.

Elly: Bloggers are influencers. You have readers that want to hear what you have to say, but they come to your page because they trust what you have to say. There are opportunities to do the little things. Maybe once a month you do something like change a recipe to make it a little healthier. Your power is very important. There are tweet ups and twitter chats. There are lots of ways to get involved. I have been speaking with brands over the past months about family dinners and pushing this with our bloggers.

Michele: I want to comment on the food companies, I think this is huge to bring manufactures and food companies. It’s not helpful to pin point one thing as being the problem,. We need everyone to be part of the conversations and solutions.

We have 3 things: Food, Funds, Folks.We need all of you to make this happen. Tell the story, put faces to the numbers, we can tell you all the numbers, but it doesn't have the same effect as sharing a personal story of someone in your community.

How can you meet these people, what are their struggles, how can you come together to help them? We have the power to change it, there is no reason for anyone in this country to go hungry.


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