Marnie Ware, a biology teacher at Prosser Career Academy in Chicago, writes:
Many science teachers at Prosser try to teach about the natural world through a lens of individual health, social justice and global environmental issues. Seeing human interactions with the natural world through this perspective can be compelling, but often the negative messages of human encroachment is somewhat overwhelming for our students. For this reason, we also try to stress that there is in fact, a growing cultural movement away from over-consumption and toward a more sustainable model of civilization, along with examples of entrepreneurship in local agriculture and the growing realization that self sufficiency is a necessity in their quickly changing world.
However, these examples of, “the bright side” can seem insignificant or distant to our students. After they hear the bad news about our status as a destructive species, it is tempting to leave it all behind at school. As typical American teenagers, they are inclined to be attracted to the endless forms of sparkly, upbeat and often sadistic entertainment that is constantly there to excite or soothe them, and who can blame them? Also, they often go home to blighted urban neighborhoods where examples of different choices are few and far between. In their experience, even where people are trying to make a difference, these things invariably seem to be happening somewhere else.
This is why, when I saw “Food Patriots”, it made me, as a teacher, parent and Chicagoan rejoice, smile uncontrollably and and leap up and down! I was just at the end of a teaching unit featuring a series of grim ecology lessons about the devastating impact of the human population explosion, habitat destruction, mass extinction, antibiotic resistance, endless examples of human greed, opportunism and a rich history of collective thoughtlessness toward the planet. But here was an antidote for the students newly found existential angst and feelings of helplessness! Here was a film that could prove to my students that there was actually reason to hope for a better future. Here was proof that ordinary people could actually try to live in a more thoughtful way, and these ordinary people were not off trying to save the world in some exotic location, they were right here in urban and suburban Chicago.
This film is a treasure for any teacher who cares about the future of this community and of the planet. It is so important to provide our young people with ideas that help them envision a future worth participating in. All aspects of society need revision and innovation away from thoughtless consumption and selfishness. This is why it is particularly important that our students see people their OWN AGE transformed by deeply personal and transformative experiences, like that of the Spitz family. To see these young people changing their attitudes about relationships between themselves, food and society is a powerful thing.
In addition, the film shows people who look like our students, for a change. In a city famous for its segregation and inequity, Food Patriots is a treasury of eco- heroes of all races, socioeconomic backgrounds and midwestern subcultures, making the very important point that these issues transcend race, gender, class and any other factor that one might use to differentiate themselves from others.
In addition to its value as a curricular source, another very crucial lesson of this lovely film is its lessons about strength of character. Jeff and his family allow us to see their struggles, doubts and the process of trial and error that result from their decision to try a little non-conformity. They allow us to see the virtue of questioning the order of things at face value. They allow us to see the very important learning that happens through making a few mistakes. Students see that learning through trial and error takes real humility and courage. Often Jeff chooses clips that show his friends and family mocking him (with sincere affection). This is a wonderfully powerful message for young people to hear.
As if all this weren’t enough, the amazing footage of Chicago’s incredible victory garden past is immensely relevant to the kids who are completely ignorant of this aspect of Chicago history.
I will use this film every time I teach ecology. I will be buying it for as many of my teacher and non-teacher friends, family and strangers as possible.
In the words of Dr. Albert Schweitzer; Physician, Missionary, Theologian and Nobel Laurate-
“The Soul is coming to the fore and ignorance is slipping away – – > Very little of the great cruelty shown by men can really be attributed to cruel instinct. Most of it comes from thoughtlessness or inherited habit. The roots of cruelty, therefore, are not so much strong as widespread. But the time will come when inhumanity protected by custom and thoughtlessness will succumb before humanity championed by thought. Let us work that this time may come. A man is ethical only when life is sacred to him, that of animals as well as that of his fellowman, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help.”
The film aligns beautifully with the new NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) too, as shown below:
Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
LS2.B: Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems
LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience
LS2.D: Social Interactions and Group Behavior
Themes that “Food Patriots” reinforce a biology/ecology curriculum:
Core Idea 2: Ecosystems: Interactions, energy, and dynamics. This core idea includes organisms interactions with each other and their physical environment.
LS2.A Interdependent relationships in ecosystems (abiotic and biotic interaction, food webs)
LS2.B Cycles of matter and energy transfer in ecosystems (cycling of matter and energy)
Composting/vermi-composting shown by City Farm and Robert Pearson of Growing Power.
LS2.C Ecosystem dynamics, functioning, and resilience Natural selection and the effect of human activity
human population explosion (exponential growth)
density dependent limiting factors
LS2.D Social interactions and group behavior (characteristics of group behavior)
Social change through LOCAL and nearby social activism
“Dudes, did you know that food color is made from gasoline! YUCK!” That’s what Lindsey Shifley’s son Mac told his elementary school classmates, and he is right. “Just google it,” he says.
On Friday, Shifley and the District 76 Wellness Committee succeeded in kicking artificial dyes out of their school breakfast program. Poof, they are gone. Why? Food dyes are linked to a host of health and behavior problems. Eliminating them will increase test scores for affected children.
Want to learn how they did it? Want to be inspired to bring Real Food into your school’s cafeteria? Want a template for a smartly written and well-research letter to your school district? Check out Lindsey’s blog, The Mullies.
“We have kicked the artificial color out of our school breakfasts!” exclaimed Shifley. Lindsay Shifley is a Food Patriots outreach committee volunteer. Together with the Wellness Committee she is planning Food Patriots screenings and events throughout District 76. “Food Patriots is a really accessible way to entice more kids and families to join the Food Revolution,” says Shifley. “Thanks to the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation’s work to improve school food policy, our country is getting her food revolutionizing on!!!”
New trailer is ready! We’re booking screenings and speakers to bring Food Patriots to communities, theaters, colleges, high schools and faith organizations. Want to get in on the action? Let us know if you’d like to get on the schedule. Thanks for sharing.
Seven years ago I had big dreams of playing in the Major Leagues. My fastball topped 86mph. My curve broke from 12:00 to 6:00. And at 15, I was already entering my second season on varsity. Local scouts were drooling. They called almost every night, and even invited me to professional tryouts.
Then I ate a chicken caesar salad that changed my life.
It was two weeks before my first sophomore start and I was rearing to go. I’d added 3 inches and 20 pounds to my frame in the off season and an extra 5mph to the fastball. I owed it to hard work and a healthy diet. Baseball meant the world to me, so I did everything I could to gain an edge. That’s why I went with a chicken caesar salad instead of pizza one day when my teammates and I went to lunch after practice. It was the healthy choice, right?
Three days later I was doubled over in the back of our car on the way to the emergency room. I had to wear a diaper. The chicken was contaminated with Campylobacter, a food-borne illness. It ate right through the lining of my intestines. Our bathroom was covered in blood.
The doctors had no trouble diagnosing me. Campylobacter is not uncommon. It’s supposed to be treatable with any wide spectrum antibiotic, two to four days tops.
Mine lasted a month. It was a “superbug,” like the ones you’ve heard about on the news.
Nothing would cure me. We tried antibiotic after antibiotic. Nada. I just kept withering away.
By the time it was all said and done I’d dropped 30 pounds. I couldn’t even trot out to the pitcher’s mound without wheezing. My season ended, and so did the calls from scouts.
I never pitched again.
It took me several months to gain my strength back. And when I did I decided to focus on football, a sport that let me feel invincible again. Fortunately, I made a full recovery and went on to play football at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But a lot of people aren’t as lucky.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria kill more Americans every year than AIDS. I met the families of some of those victims last year when I went to Washington, D.C. with the Pew Foundation to lobby for the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA, H.R. 965, S. 1211). Their stories inspired me to share mine in a new documentary film called Food Patriots.
Food Patriots is about ordinary people who are taking revolutionary steps to change the food system. The goal of the project is to get consumers to change the way they eat, buy and educate the next generation about food by 10%. That’s 10% more fresh, local and organic foods — 10% from wherever you are on the continuum.
Superbugs are the byproduct of unsustainable meat production, in particular, the overuse of antibiotics in Contained Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Factory farms suck up 70% of America’s antibiotics. And worse, they use most of ‘em on healthy animals!
We have the power to change that. If consumers demand antibiotic-free meat then producers will absolutely give it to them. It’s basic supply and demand. As consumers learn to demand better food they’ll pressure supply and policy changes to our food system.
But change won’t come all at once.
That’s why Food Patriots is asking consumers to make a reasonable 10% shift. It’s doable. And effective.
Chicken caesar salads shouldn’t be able to change lives. So I hope you’ll take the 10% challenge with me, because even if I can’t pitch again, together we can strike antibiotics out of the food system.
Sam Spitz graduated from Colgate University, May 2013 Suma Cum Laude, where he transferred after playing football for UW-Madison. Sam is a frequent speaker with Food Patriots, a film and public engagement campaign by Groundswell Educational Films, and an advocate for a more sustainable food system. He has also appeared on Maryn McKenna’s blog and lobbied with the Pew Foundation in Washington, D.C. for the Preserve Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. Sam is a graduate student at University of Oxford, UK where he will earn a Masters degree June 2014, and a member of the Oxford Blue basketball team.
Most countries have a precise type of food that is known worldwide as theirs specifically. Sometimes it almost becomes a stereotype to that country and culture. Italy has pizza, France has baguettes, Japan has sushi, and Mexico has anything with salsa and queso. But what does America have? Oh, right-preservatives.
The US has always prided itself on being a melting pot of sorts, and that pot certainly includes food culture. There are restaurants that range from Thai to Ethiopian and bars that serve brews from Jamaica to the Netherlands. Yes it’s true that the United States claims a few foods and drinks of its own, but what is it really known for? That golden arch of McDonalds is certainly associated with the country where, according to the CDC, one-third of its adult population is obese. The portion sizes served at restaurants in the US are significantly larger to the more manageable sizes in other countries. My sister spent time teaching in Australia. When she asked her students what they knew about the US, they immediately responded all about the junk food and how the pizzas and burgers were massive.
There is more than one thing to blame when it comes to the US diet. With the busy lifestyle and fast paced mindset that Americans have, it makes sense that our food is manufactured in the same way. We usually want something quick and don’t fully consider what happened to the food on our plate before it got there. We care about quantity over quality.
The US has a reputation now. Fat, sugar, calories and food packed with preservatives have become an American stereotype associated with the foods, snacks and drinks. It was shocking to personally witness how long it takes for bread in the United States to mold compared to the fresher European bread. But what if the United Sates turned all of that around? What if its citizens started
demanding fresher food and higher quality in the production of its vegetables, fruits and meats? What if America’s change inspired other countries to better their food industries as well? What if there was a simple solution that anyone on any budget could do?
Well I found out the answer to that last question. The simple solution is making a 10% change toward a healthier diet. That could mean buying more organic or locally grown produce, or buying less junk food and instead buying fresh bread, or raising chickens in the backyard. These ideas are the message in the documentary film Food Patriots. A simple change can go a long way. For me as a college student, my change has been bread. I used to search the shelf for the cheapest wheat bread possible which cost about a dollar. It was most likely just dyed white bread so it could be sold as wheat. After hearing the film’s message, I have been buying bread that is true wheat and actually has grains instead of starch. Yeah, it’s a little more expensive, but instead of buying that candy bar at the checkout, I can have healthier bread.
During the 1940’s, the US Department of Agriculture estimated that over 20 million victory gardens were planted. There was an estimated 9-10 million tons of fruits and vegetables harvested from those gardens. This proves that Americans are capable of lots of people making small changes. So whether it’s making a small change in the way we buy groceries, or taking up a new hobby of home canning, (which, according to my mother, is the most patriotic thing a person can do) it doesn’t seem so hard to become a Food Patriot.
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.
We are excited to share this quick update about our Kickstarter campaign to support completion of our film project, Food Patriots. In just the first week, you helped us raise 25% of our goal for the campaign. That’s fantastic. Thank you so much.
If you have not donated yet, please consider pledging today. It’s tax deductible, but remember Kickstarter is an all or nothing program, so we have to meet our goal. And we only have until December 20th.
Please share this link with friends and help us reach out to your networks via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or even phone calls.
Please watch our short Kickstarter video, share this message with all your friends and use the opportunity to spark conversations about changing the way we eat, buy and teach the next generation about food.
Here’s what you can do right now:
1) Share, post, and tweet this link to your social media networks. Or forward this email. We appreciate whatever you can do to spread the word.
2) Pledge today! Pledge any amount and receive rewards including the DVD, posters, and/or special access to the premier. Every dollar you can contribute will help us finish this documentary.
Do Both – and let’s work together to build momentum for better food and better health.
After two years of filming stories about people who are changing the way Americans eat, buy and teach the next generation about food, including our own misadventures with backyard chickens, we are nearing completion on our feature length documentary film titled, Food Patriots – a journey into the good food movement.
We are delighted to announce the upcoming launch of our Kickstarter online fundraising campaign. As we recover from our Thanksgiving we will ask you and all fellow Food Patriots for your support to help us bring an inspirational feature documentary film to completion.
How can you help today? Please forward this announcement to everyone who eats and introduce them to Food Patriots at www.foodpatriots.com.
On Monday, November 26th we will send you a link to a new video that introduces our Kickstarter online fundraising campaign. Please donate right away to the campaign. Projects that take off quickly are the most successful on Kickstarter.