I was privileged to attend the recent MomsRising.org meeting of the Good Food Force, a group of dynamic volunteers dedicated to getting the word out about healthy school foods, junk food marketing to kids, and strategies that are working to reduce childhood obesity. Through workshops, discussions and sharing our experiences, MomsRising armed us with motivation, inspiration, tools and resources (see below for some of the best) to advocate for change in our communities.
We were a diverse group, every one of us with a unique story to tell about why we were there and what we were working on in our own communities – but we were united in our desire to use our mom power to advocate for healthy food for kids.
What we were not united about? What exactly “healthy food” means.
It was clear from the conversations and comments that “healthy” meant entirely different things to different people in the room. Not surprising, given that among nutrition experts, what’s healthy and what’s not is a source of never-ending debate.
So what does this mean for our work as food activists? Can we leverage that collective mom power as the “Good Food Force,” while working for change that is going to look very different in our respective communities, depending on the opinions of those who are leading the charge and the circumstances and realities that we’re facing in our different locales?
I think we can. In fact I’m sure of it. It is worth noting that despite this elephant in the room, we did not once get bogged down in open debate about what we did and did not consider healthy. There was tacit agreement, among all of us, that, details aside, we were all working for the same thing – ensuring that food contributes to, rather than detracts from, the health of our kids. MomsRising is helping to arm us with the skills, the resources, and the mom power juju to determine our own strategies for promoting healthy food for kids in our communities and to move that strategy forward, whatever it may be.
Messaging around healthy food is complex. It’s unlike, say, the public health campaign to reduce smoking. That one is pretty simple, boiling down to a message that everyone can get behind: don’t smoke because it will likely lead to your premature death.
I’m pragmatic (ok maybe skeptical at times), so when in doubt, I will default to the evidence base. Shaping policy is really hard. Stories and personal anecdotes really help policy makers see the issue. Solid evidence from reputable sources arguably helps even more. There are a lot of opinions out there about what is healthy and what is not. Some of these opinions are probably true, but are unfortunately not yet backed up by good research. Having a policy agenda that is solidly backed by science makes advocacy a lot easier.
Here are some of the great organizations we heard from at the meeting where you can find research and resources:
Lots of food activists – and activists of all kinds – bring a passion and big thinking to the table that I truly admire. They’ll stick to their agenda without compromise, no matter how steep the hill to climb. Whether or not the scientific community has been able to get around to proving what they know to be true.
We need both passion and pragmatism in this work. And we need to deploy all the mom power we have to advocate for healthy food for kids. Because whatever that means to you, its got to be better than what’s out there now.
What does healthy food mean to you and your family? What about in your school or community?