Over the last few years, so many people have reached out to share their stories and their passion to protect the health of our country and have asked, “What did it take to get started?”
As I’ve reflected on this, it took me back to the beginning of my story. And in all candor, that is not a place that I like to visit much. Because in the beginning, it was isolating. Organizations that were supposed to be looking out for the best interests of our children were having allergic reactions to me, I had been absolutely buried in the research, not sleeping, not eating, consumed by concern for the health of the American children and the health of our food supply, and any pictures of me taken from that time reflect it. I looked like a skeleton, as I’d been swallowed by the work and what seemed like everything that I’d believed in was stripped bare.
But along the way, I learned one of the most valuable lessons in all of this. You can not go it alone.
You have to find a friend to stand beside you to cheer you on. And about a year into my work, I connected with a bestselling author and film producer. In February 2007, he filmed my story. A few months later, I connected with an extraordinary woman, Deborah Koons Garcia, who produced the predecessor to Food Inc., a ground-breaking and life-changing film called The Future of Food. To this day, both remain friends. And then, because of these friendships, I appeared on the CBS Early Show before a national audience. And suddenly people knew my story.
Because in that appearance in the fall of 2007 that I found the courage to share my work, my concerns over the rate at which we had introduced artificial colors, preservatives and genetically engineered ingredients into our food supply while other countries around the world were preserving theirs for the sake of their children. To love more and to fear less and to put my face on on an issue, not knowing what people might say. My husband stood beside me in that first broadcast, and you could literally see the toll it the work had taken on me physically. To watch some of those early interviews or to look at some of the pictures almost hurts, as I was a skeletal version of the person that I am today.
And as that appearance hit, I began to hear from countless others whose stories were the same. Those whose children suffered from food allergies, those writing books, those battling cancer. And I realized that there is far more that unites us than divides us, and that together, we can create the changes we want to see in the health of our families and food systems.
And as I reflected on the stripping away of old beliefs and the building of new ones, it reminded me that despite what can seem like insurmountable odds, we have more strength and courage that we are ever aware of, and love that can serve as a rocket fuel. But that we need friends standing beside us.
So for those of you who have asked, “Where do I start?” “How do I begin to make changes in my community, school, state…?” The first thing that you must do is to find a friend. If your spouse is on board, take it for the gift that it is. If not, look (and don’t stop) until you find someone who shares your passion and concern.
Food is an intimate and loaded issue, and people can become incredibly defensive and say extraordinary things (I’ve been accused of just about everything!).
But the love that you have for your friends and family will serve as a rocket fuel. And as you begin to express your concern over the state of the health of our families (on Facebook, on a blog, in your community, to your local Congressmen), you will quickly learn that your concern is shared by countless others (like the 900,000 Americans that have sent comments to the FDA), and it is together, that we can change the dialogue and create a food system that will define our families, farmers and future in a way that makes all of us, every American, both healthy and proud.