Monday, March 13, 2017

From Fighting Against Hunger to Fighting For Social Justice

             The injustice of inequality has found its way into the culinary community. It’s probably been obvious to you for a while, but one thing that Add Passion and Stir enabled me to see more clearly is the dramatic evolution of the chef, restaurant and culinary community from helping to fight hunger to innovating in the fight for social justice. Many are going beyond charitable work to use their businesses to leverage systemic change on equity, justice, and sustainability matters. The range of issues they are involved in represents a dramatic shift with profound consequence both for the impact they can have, and for our need to keep up with their interests.

            Just look at the diverse examples:

n  Sarah Polon, Soupergirl, changing the world one bowl of soup at a time, through a locally sourced, plant-based business.

n  Mary Sue Milliken addressing “the broken food system”. 

n  Bill Telepan and Marc Murphy, advocating for healthier school means via Wellness in Schools,

n  Sam Polk, making healthy prepared foods affordable for all thru EveryTable

n  Jose Andres working with the UN Foundation to promote clean cookstoves to end the epidemic of disease killing women and children in Haiti 

            Today’s new generation of chefs  are about more than charity fundraising events. They are about advocacy, sustainability, policy and systemic change.. They are helping to feed America’s hungry kids, but are also going beyond that. They see food policy as a social justice issue. They are creating options for their customers to impact agriculture, supply chain, energy and the environment, and children’s health.
            For many, Share Our Strength and our No Kid Hungry campaign helped plant the seed. Shoots and leaves have sprouted in many different directions but all have blossomed toward the sun - and are still growing.

            All Add Passion and Stir episodes can be found at and on iTunes @

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"Food Is The Glue Of The Society In Which We Live"

           We’ve just released the latest episode of Add Passion and Stir with Dr. Debbie Frank and chef Ming Tsai.  It’s rich in stories about how and where food has changed or saved a life.


One of my favorite passages, from Ming Tsai, evokes the wonder behind virtually everything we eat: “I love this book called Savor by Thich Nhat Hanh:  It’s about when you are eating an apple, don’t be texting, don’t be driving, don’t be watching TV, eat the apple, think about the apple, savor it. Where did it come from? How did it grow?  How did it get here? It got washed, it got put on a train, finally one farmer got you that apple. When you start thinking about the apple , when you start appreciating the actual apple, you eat more slowly, which is one of the biggest issues with obesity because you are full 20 minutes before your mind knows you’re full, and when you are full you stop eating, and you stop food waste.”


            Thich Nhat Hanh writes about many manifestations of mindfulness and I’m glad it’s made its way into our podcast – as greater mindfulness about food, hunger for it, and how food both satisfies and heals is an important element of achieving No Kid Hungry. The episode is @


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Resisting Our Own Complacency and Complicity

With a new Executive Order forthcoming on immigration, I’m grateful to the American Academy of Pediatrics for speaking out on behalf of the most vulnerable children among us.  

The Academy said: “Federal authorities must exercise caution to ensure that the emotional and physical stress children experience as they seek refuge in the United States is not exacerbated by the additional trauma of being separated from their siblings, parents or other relatives and caregivers. Proposals to separate children from their families as a tool of law enforcement to deter immigration are harsh and counterproductive.  We urge policymakers to always be mindful that these are vulnerable, scared children.”

It’s easy to imagine pediatricians staying focused on more immediate issues like health care, Medicaid, or even childhood hunger and nutrition. But fortunately they also see the connection between their work and the reckless immigration policy changes now underway.  Even though they are not an immigration advocacy organization per se, the American Academy of Pediatrics is willing to stick out their necks when too few others have.

For every service and advocacy nonprofit whose mission is to serve the underserved and the most vulnerable and voiceless, whether or not their organization focuses specifically on immigration, this is a great example of how to speak up and speak out in ways most relevant to the times in which we find ourselves. It would be even better if such organizations committed to expanding programming toward those being persecuted, and especially in “sanctuary cities” that are at risk of losing government funding as the price for their political and moral courage.

Most important of all is a commitment to backing up words with actions.  Blog posts and Facebook messages are not enough. The forces behind this inexcusable cruelty expect our complaints, but also expect we will soon return to business as usual. The most important thing of all to resist is our own complacency and unintended complicity.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Inexcusable Cruelty

The two stories below speak of inexcusable cruelty in the way our nation’s immigration and deportation policies are now being executed.  Our government’sa actions fly in the face of family values, safeguarding children, not to mention just and moral behavior.

Everyone has a moral obligation to speak up and speak out.  As Elie Wiesel cautioned: “Let us remember, that what hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.”

I’m haunted by history’s lessons that suggest we will one day look back and ask how we remained silent and complacent in the face of such behavior.

Ron Charles is the editor of Book World in the Washington Post and on Twitter I thanked him for posting the L.A. story. He wrote me back:  “I can only pray that stories like this awaken people's conscience and enrich their affections.  Let's hope he’s right.