Turning Food Ethics into Action!
(M) Andrew Wilder
Eating Rules/October Unprocessed Blog Tutor
(JS) Jenny Sprague
Food Allergy Bloggers Conference
Multiple Food Allergy Help
(JJ) Jessie Johnson - connects bloggers with sustainable seafood brands
Life As a Strawberry
Sustainable Seafood Blog Project
(V) Vani Hari - food activist blogging about the truth about what's happening in the food industry and changing it
Andrew: Tell us about the Food Allergy Conference
Jenny: I went to BlogHer conference and I wanted to do this but for food allergy people. Then I attended 2 summits by drug companies who had flown in food bloggers and I thought it was really cool and thought this should be expanded to all people with food allergies and not just for a select few bloggers. I reached out to Elisa Camahort Page and ran my idea by her. She offered to be on my advisory panel. We bloggers empower, lift, and support each other so she helped walk me through the initial planning.
The first thing I did was an initial survey to see if people want or need this. Once we got the results of the survey, we were able to hone into what we needed to do. I found a business partner whom I met through Twitter - she is an attorney in Vegas and I wanted my event in Vegas because people can get cheap flights to Vegas. We wanted to keep the cost really friendly for our attendees because most bloggers don't make money or a lot of money off their blog.
Moderator: We put together a resource guide online, go to bit.ly/ethicstoaction
Jessie: I started my blog because I had alot of time on my hands. My background is in food security and I have various different backgrounds and I was not doing anything in food anymore so I felt a void and I really wanted to do something with sustainable food systems and my research background. I wanted to feature a sustainable seafood company and started thinking about ways to pull in other bloggers and started thinking about ways to make this a bigger project. I started thinking that this is something that doesn't just have to last for one day. Food bloggers are really passionate about food and already well poised to talk about the topic but there wasn't an organized way to do it.
I started emailing bloggers and recruiting bloggers and businesses. Our site is now up for 1 yr. What we've done is created a network of bloggers who have demonstrated a goal of sustainability and created a space for them to interact and work together.
Vani: I was an accidental food blogger. I only kind of followed GOOP, I liked her format. I was a typical Indian immigrant trying to fit in and my parents really wanted me to be American and fit in so they didn't let me eat Indian food. My brother and I always thought Indian food was gross. That lead to me living a life low on energy, having eczema, asthma because the only things I ate was processed food and fast food. when I left college, I got a job with a big 6 consulting firm, I was on the road and working a lot, I gained 30 lbs. I ended up in the hospital and the doctor sent me home and said I was fine. The next morning I had an emergency appendectomy to get my appendix out.
All the doctors thought this was a random thing that happened to me. I did research on my own and learned that my appendix is part of my digestive system and if my digestive system was inflamed, the appendix becomes inflamed. I found out that the food I was eating was full of antibiotics that cause inflammation. I literally had no nutrition going into my cells.
As soon as I figured that out, I changed my diet and my body dramatically changed. i decided not to let anything to do with my work get in the way with my health. I started Foodbabe out of joy for my friends and my family who wanted to know why I was doing the things I did with my nutrition. I started blogging about how we've been duped by the food industry and how their greed has taken over. I started blogging about companies that I personally felt duped by. For a year and a half, I hid by the name Foodbabe I was scared because I was working for C level executives. Then I realized companies were responding to what I wrote. I blogged about Chipotle and that they wouldn't release their ingredients to me. I found out that a majority of the foods from Chipotle were genetically modified and were not "foods with integrity." Their famed tortilla had GMO transfat in it. I wrote about that and in 2 weeks, Chipotle reached out to me and started listing their ingredients and taking out GMO foods. I realized that I had to quit my job - I was making 6 figures as a very
well paid corporate consultant and I was actually in the red to keep foodbabe going in the beginning. I ended up pursuing Kraft and Chick Fil A who ended up going antibiotic free because of my consulting with them. You have a voice even if you do not have a huge following.
Andrew: I became a vegetarian when I was 15. After college, I went into the entertainment industry and lost my way. I started having cognitive functioning problems, I was getting spacey. I started eating seafood again and it helped. In 2007, I decided to leave the wedding business, it was time to move on. I also got out of a 4 yr relationship so I suddenly found myself single again. Within the same week, I was walking to my car and I felt tired even walking on flat concrete. I got an at home yoga video and I found that I loved it.
I realized I was 30 lbs over weight and I started counting calories and tracking things I ate. I read Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food and I realized how much processed food I was still eating. I tried going for an entire month without eating processed food. I found 2 other friends who wanted to try this with me and we started cooking for each other.
I got really passionate about this so I thought, how do you become an expert in what you are passionate about? Do your research, build and audience, be honest and transparent, Eating Rules was born out of this. I posted a challenge on my twitter asking for participants to eat non-processed food for one month and got a great response rate. I came up with this rule of thumb, if you can make it at home with all the ingredients listed, then it's non-processed. Other bloggers joined and by doing so they brought in their own audience.
By October, 400 people had taken the pledge to try for at least one day. Last year was the 4th annual challenge and more than 1500 people had taken the pledge to try for at least one day. I brought on an assitant and here's my tip, outsource as much as you can if the blog becomes more than you can handle. I now have recipes, tips, posts on food politics, how to stock your pantry.
I am always trying to find new ways to give people tools to affect change in their lives.
Moderator: Vani got really passionate about an ingredient Subway uses in their bread - azodide carbonimide. A week later, Subway decided to take it out of their bread. What did you do to make this happen?
Vani: I learned from starting a Kraft petition on change.org, change.org/Kraft, that I thought that taking on subway would be a big fight. I started the Subway campaign on June 2012 with my original blog post. I asked my friend to film me ordering real food at subway. People do not realize that the under 100 calorie sub at Subway has many issues. Right before a police officer kicked us out, she got a video of me on iphone. I ended up ordering a salad with avocado. I found out that Subway was not using azodide carbonimide in other countries but they were feeding the US this ingredient. Other countries banned this ingredient because it exacerbates asthma. Also, when you heat it, it becomes a carcinogen and when it's in bread, its heated. I sent this to Subway and I never got anything. I worked with various other bloggers and slowly started educating the public about it.
I decided to film myself eating a yoga mat because it has the same ingredient. As you gain new readers, start sharing your old posts. I started sharing my older posts. In November, I got a book deal and I needed to focus on my book but the issue was still on the forefront of my mind. In the middle of January, Michelle Obama does a press conference in the middle of Subway, and told the public that she endorsed Subway. Then I put my book writing aside and called, emailed Subway and had my part time help do the same. They would not answer.
I started a petition and filmed a video again. Videos are important because people want to connect with a person and not an organization. I did not go through change.org or an outside platform and I wanted to be able to contact petitioners and allow them to take further action. In a short period of time, the petition had been shared so much that Subway had to respond.
If you have a change you want to make, find a writer or a media outlet who has covered these topics before and influence them. You really do not have to spend alot of money to take on the world if you share the truth. I learned about Subway that do not count your chickens before they hatch. Have a plan of action but don't invest too much up front. See how the response is.
Collaborate like crazy with like minded individuals or organizations.
Audience Question: What do each of you think is the best social media medium for spreading your message?
Vani: The best way is the one you have the control over the most. FB limits your reach, Twitter gets lost in the masses, Pinterest is not really an activist place, INstagram could be. But the best way is building your own email list. You have direct communication to your followers.
Jenny: I love Twitter, I cannot get enough of Twitter. 80% of our sales for our conference came through twitter. For companies, it is a really easy way to engage with them or with reporters. You can also get your followers to become activists with you. It is really easy to do a retweet and spread your message out and go viral. I think using humor is a good way to reach more people.
Jessie: We like Twitter also. THe Seafood community also likes sending out links to each other. We also focus on growing our email list, it has been our biggest focus. Most of our work goes into
connecting the bloggers and businesses.
Audience Question: Do you have any thoughts about monetization and getting the word out but also getting payback for your time?
Jenny: I put on a conference but i do have to figure out how to fund my conference. You have to figure out what you have to pay for, tally up your bill, and figure out what is a fair price to charge for a ticket. How to arrange my sponsorship tiers and who to bring in for the conference? Sadly this means that I do not get a paycheck until at the end of the year.
Jessie: Same here, we work on a volunteer basis. I do have an intern. But my project is alot of facilitating and putting bloggers together so it is not something thatI need to quit my job for. Finding people who are also passionate and outsourcing to them is a great way. My plate is full but I find a way to strike a balance. If you find the right tools and use them efficiently.
Vani: I spent 6 months to create an eating guide on the website for people to follow that makes it easy for everyone to live the organic lifestyle.
Andrew: For October, I operated at a loss. My amazon affiliated program paid a bit but it did not make up for my loss. I got a corporate sponsorship by Bob's Red Mill. I had developed a relationship with the brand over the last 3 years. When you work with brands, you want to develope a proposal that would make it easy for people to bring that to their decision making committee. When people sign the pledge, I developed a landing page with actions for people to take and one ofthem was a high value coupon for Bob's Red Mill.
Jenny: You also need to figure out the legalities, how are you going to protect yourself legally. For example, most of our attendees have allergies, and most hotels do not want to touch my conference.
I am lucky that we found a chef who knows how to work with these allergies. If you are holding an event, think about who is going to your conference.
Andrew: How do you keep track of what you have to do?
Jenny: I have paper scraps and notes
Jessie: I have a big planner from Target
Vani: I have an Excel Spreadsheet with all my to do's in categories, and updates to the blogs that I have to do. I also have an urgent column. These are from my consulting days.
Jenny: I use spreadsheets for my attendees dietary restrcitions. I also have the promise keeper, a spreadsheet to keep track of what i've promised people and when i've promised to deliver.
Andrew: I use Trolleo (?)
Audience Question: How do you decide what to keep up with when you choose what topic to go after?
Vani: I think it is important to show people where their food comes from. For me, how I go after a campaign is I go after passon project. People have told me that Subway removing the chemical out of
their bread spawned other bakeries and companies started removing it also. It started a conversation and started people wondering what was in their food. these campaigns create awareness.
Whether you want to go after the big thing or the minute thing, the campaigns I do are strategic.
Andrew: Either approach can work, you just have to reach people where they are. My monthly challenge is just for the process of people to learn to look at what they eat.
Jenny: I do this because my children have food allergies and these ingredients could hurt or kill them. Just find your passion, if something moves your soul, chances are, they will move someone else's.
Audience Question: Is there any particular aspect of activism that you would like to see a groundswell about.
Vani: Hidden MSG
Andrew: Coking- I want people to cook more.