Food Patriots, Super Bugs and Me
Posted on January 14, 2013 by Jeff Spitz
When I tell people that my family and I are making an independent film about our misadventures with backyard chickens and calling it Food Patriots, they ask three questions.
The first question is what’s a Food Patriot?
The second question: why did you get chickens?
The third: why are you making a film about this?
Our film is not finished but it answers those questions with a story and you can see excerpts right now at www.foodpatriots.com.
Food Patriots are trying to change the way they eat, buy and teach the next generation about food. The Food Patriots in our film range from Gary Hirshberg to Will Allen and the University of Wisconsin’s entire athletic department. They show us what we can do in our own home, community, school or team to strengthen the connections between our health and our food. Our film will show you what happens when one family tries to document their first steps into the food revolution. For my family this all traces back to a foodborne illness that struck our older son, Sam.
Sam was a big high school athlete who pitched on the varsity baseball team as a freshman. He played defensive line and fullback for the varsity football team. College recruiters and scouts came to his games. He began to lift weights and eat more healthy foods. That’s why it was odd when he came home from school one day with a terrible stomache ache after eating a “healthy choice” chicken Caesar salad for lunch. We thought he would feel better after going to the bathroom. After hours in there he cried out. He had uncontrollable diahrrea. He was bleeding. He could not get up from the toilet.
In order to leave that bathroom and go to the emergency room our strapping son had to wear a diaper. Doctors took a culture and gave him a broad spectrum anti-biotic. We brought Sam back home. He was pale and losing weight rapidly. We fed him chicken broth.
After a few days it was clear that the anti-biotic failed. When the doctor told us the result of the culture, we learned about a foodborne illness called campylobacter, caused by contaminated chicken. It usually lasts 2 – 5 days. They prescribed a different anti-biotic. It failed, too. Sam was dejected. He he felt weaker every day and just wanted to know if we were hiding the truth from him. He asked us point blank if he had stomache cancer. Days went by without improvement. We managed to get an appointment with an expert. We were lucky to find a top internist who unlocked the mystery. He explained that Sam had an anti-biotic resistant form of bacteria, a superbug. He prescribed a more powerful anti-biotic and it worked.
Sam lost 30 pounds, a month of school and his sophomore baseball season. He tells his story in our film which follows his journey to Washington DC with his mom to lobby congress as part of a campaign called Super Moms Against Super Bugs. Some experts say super bugs are spreading throughout our food system mostly through pork and poultry which are fed a lot of anti-biotics.
Food Patriots is our family’s way to spark conversations about the food revolution. Many people are not into this talk of revolution. In fact our own extended family is not into organic food or meat without drugs so they tease us about our “healthy food” film. The banter is in our film. In fact my wife’s brother bet us on camera that our chickens would not last six months, let alone lay a single egg. If you want to see who ends up with egg on their face or just want to learn about this film and opportunities to show it in your community, please contact us.