“I’m Ellen, and I’m totally obsessed with food…”
Actually, that’s the way Ellen Gustafson starts her famed TED talk. But when Ellen, in person, walked through my front door in San Diego last week and said “Hi, I’m Ellen,” I felt the same wave of high energy, passion, and positive enthusiasm that is so evident in her TED appearance.
The author of “We The Eaters: If We Change Dinner, We Can Change the World,” Ellen got her start in food issues in an unusual way: after graduating from Columbia University she worked at the Council on Foreign Relations (a think tank) where she focused on global security issues. From there she went to ABC News and its investigative journalism unit.
I hope you read the whole chain of events in her powerful book, but in short: her research and curiosity led her to compare a map of world hunger issues to a map of violence hotspots. Voilá, an almost perfect match, and, as she recalls in her book:
From that moment, I decided it made far more sense to make the world aware of the stories of the hungry, before they became the stories of the violent.”
So what did she do about it? Not only is she the co-founder, along with Lauren Bush, of FEED in 2007, where the FEED 1 Bag was launched, she partnered with the Millenium Villages Project to provide “FEED Health Backpacks” for health workers who have to travel on foot from village to village in Uganda.
During her time in Africa, Ellen discovered that a simple quest to find what she considered to be reasonably edible, FRESH, and nutritious food in the markets, was incredibly frustrating. U.S. food companies had taken over much of the shelf space with processed snack foods, cereals and the like. Fresh fruits and vegetables had become an endangered commodity.
Back in America, she quickly unearthed alarming reports like, “Americans spend an average of 90 percent of their food budgets on processed food.” This led to her TED talk at age 29 in 2009.
"We The Eaters” focuses on explaining the real story behind the corn, beef, dairy, and sugar industrialized juggernauts in America, and what we can do about them. Yes, we CAN vote with our shopping bags and our forks.
I urge you to jump start your own actions by reading her fine book, and taking to heart her final chapter: “Action Steps: 30 Food Shifts to Better Health and a Better World.” Wellness Warriors can focus on a few of these steps each week—the first is to "Eat more family dinners—and share feedback via a hashtag we’ve created with Ellen’s blessing: #foodshifts. We’ll post all 30 of Ellen's Food Shift Action Steps via Facebook and Twitter over the coming months while the full story unfolds, not only in the pages of her book, but at the numerous appearances she now makes around the country!