Nine years ago, this morning, our littlest had an allergic reaction to a plate of scrambled eggs.
Yesterday, I was in NYC and spoke at a luncheon with the Time Magazine’s health editor, beautiful food designed by an extraordinary woman with Hampton Creek products, products made without eggs. The irony of it all was not lost on me, as I thought about it marking the ninth anniversary of this work.
It changed every thing in my life. Everything that I had planned to do, everything that I thought I had worked for, every relationship.
It also taught me how to love without hesitation and how to lead.
I had chosen a career in investments, with my head buried behind computer screens and Bloomberg terminals. I was happy hidden behind those screens with my head in the numbers.
But nine years ago today, this work chose me.
On the flight home, I thought about how far we have come as a movement in the last nine years. How we are making artificial ingredients obsolete as we choose foods that are better for us and better for our families. I thought about the food awakening that so many are having, and how it has taught us to move from paralysis to patriotism, doing things far outside of our comfort zones, because we believe in a better way, a brighter future for our children.
We have inherited a broken food system, built in the 20th century for 20th century families. It is no longer working for 21st century families. The 20th century food companies, icons of that time, have a choice: innovate and iterate, move with us, providing products that are “free from” artificial ingredients like dyes, growth hormones, excessive pesticides and GMOs, or become obsolete. The choice is theirs to make: icon or relic.
In the meantime, 21st century food companies and new iconic brands are being created as we speak. The innovation is extraordinary, the compassion for where we all stand as consumers is, too. Visionary, passionate, leaders and entrepreneurs are coming together and saying: We can do better. We will do better. And we are. The headlines are inspiring. The growth rates of these companies are, too, from 17 consecutive quarters in a row of earnings growth, to the explosion of product categories that didn’t exist just two short years ago, taking a company like Kroger’s Simple Truth line from $0 to a $1 billion in revenue in just two years flat.
The numbers tell a powerful story, and as I sat in the room yesterday in New York, listening to questions about Girl Scout cookies to the struggles of 21st century parenting, it was again so crystal clear that we are going to fix this. The passion of this movement is something that can not be measured or harnessed, the authenticity of the motives is so pure.
None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something, and creating a better food system will be our legacy. It will take all hands on deck, with people doing what they can, where they are with what they have: from journalists and writers, to filmmakers, to parents reaching out to schools or churches or even legislators, to entrepreneurs.
For some that is activism at the local level: changing school lunch programs, initiating state labeling initiatives, passing EpiPen laws, for others, it is at the national level, with labeling campaigns, broader initiatives. But for all of us, it starts with where we are, and what we have.
Take what you are passionate about and leverage it with what you are good at. Do one thing: dump artificial dyes, look for milk that is labeled rbGH free, dump GMOs, coated with a record amount of toxic weedkillers, reach out to others. But most importantly, find a friend to begin to make these changes with.
For more than one of us, change started with an egg. It was no bigger than that. So take that first step, do that first thing, be brave, it will inspire others to do the same.
Courage is contagious, and together, we will build a better food system.
We already are.