When ‘superbug’ hit home, family of ‘Food Patriots’ was born
Posted on September 24, 2015 by Matt Riewer   Permalink


By: Rick Kogan

You might find Jeff Spitz in a classroom at Columbia College, where he is an associate professor in its department of Cinema Art + Science. You might find him, as we recently did one afternoon in Federal Plaza, along with his wife, Jennifer Amdur, scouring the offerings at one of the increasing number of farmers markets that dot the city and suburbs every summer. And you would find the couple this week in the Dominican Republic, where they have been flown by the government of that country for the Latin American premiere of their film, “Food Patriots,” which has been translated into Spanish and will be screening in a number of cities there.

“And that’s a long way from chickens in a backyard in Northbrook,” Spitz says.

Yes, he and his wife used to have chickens at home, and that was the first step in the creation of a healthy lifestyle that helped give birth to a film that is becoming something of an international sensation — a call to action for people to start caring about what they eat.

Now, before you start to cringe, please know that Spitz is no wild-eyed, manic-tongued zealot.

“I hate yardwork. I hate to talk about organic food,” he says. “But I love telling stories and listening to other people talk about food. Stories about food are the most wonderful, accessible, heartening stories of all. There isn’t a kid anywhere who can’t tell you a powerful food story, about being hungry or about a loved one making something special.”

It was a kid, the offspring of Spitz and his wife (a strategic communications consultant), whose story started this lifestyle/cinematic journey, and did so in a most chilling fashion.

Their son Sam was a star athlete at Whitney Young High School, a starting varsity pitcher as a freshman and a member of the varsity football team as a sophomore. Then he went to lunch.

He ordered, thinking healthy, a chicken Caesar salad. And then he got a stomachache.

“Just go to the bathroom,” his father said. “You’ll be OK.”

But he was not. He began bleeding and was taken to a hospital, where doctors tested for salmonella and E.coli. He did not suffer from either of those bacterial infections. They went to another hospital and there were more tests, but Sam stayed sick and tearfully asked, “Why are you not telling me I have stomach cancer?”

He did not. Eventually he and his parents learned that he had been infected with a bacterium called campylobacter.

“It was a superbug, a form that was antibiotic-resistant,” says Spitz. His son was sick for more than a month, lost 30 pounds and almost a full season of sports.

“This was caused by the food he ate, a result of the antibiotics used in the feeding of poultry and pork,” says Spitz. “This caused us to ask a lot of questions about food and where it comes from. And that’s when we bought the chickens.”

He and his wife also started nonprofit Chicago-based Groundswell Educational Films with a mission to make films that address social justice issues.

“We never intended when we first started to make ‘Food Patriots’ that we would dive deeply into our son’s story,” Spitz says.

But it is a good thing they did, for it gives this compelling film a very personal and powerful punch. There are many other empowering stories in “Food Patriots” (www.foodpatriots.com), which aims to spread awareness of the dangers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and showcase people who grow organic foods. There’s the story of LaManda Joy, who founded the Peterson Garden Project (www.petersongarden.org), which transformed a vacant North Side lot into a successful urban food garden, selling to local restaurants and individuals. There is the story of the entire men’s and women’s athletic departments at the University of Wisconsin, where student athletes are taught how to shop and cook healthy. “The term ‘food patriot’ means different things to different people, like ‘love,’ like ‘democracy,’ like ‘faith,'” Spitz says.

“My wife coined the phrase as she was looking at all these people around the country trying to connect food and health.”

The movie was released in 2014 and has won awards at various film festivals. More important, it has been screened for many groups, schools and organizations, and Spitz says: “I have loved going to the variety of places that have asked to see the film, from Calumet City to Highland Park. The crowds are people from 2 to 82, and they are now thinking about what they are eating. They are a lot like I used to be, someone who never thought about these things until some years ago.”

They and the film don’t ask much, just that people try to make a 10 percent change in the way they buy and consume food.

But the filmmakers are mindful there are inequities that make that difficult.

“It is heartening to us that lots of Americans are waking up to the fact many people have fewer choices than others,” Spitz says. “We can’t just give junk food to poor people and give rich people organic food because they can afford it.”

He and Jennifer moved back into the city last summer. Sam graduated summa cum laude from Colgate University in 2013, having played football at the University of Wisconsin, and has just completed a master’s in U.S. history at the University of Oxford. The couple’s other son, A.J., was a football star at Glenbrook North High School and is now a wide receiver and communications major at Drake University.

Jeff and Jennifer no longer keep chickens at their home in the Lincoln Square neighborhood.

“But maybe we’ll have some back in the spring,” says Jeff. “That would be nice. I miss those eggs.”

“After Hours With Rick Kogan” airs 9-11 p.m. Sundays on WGN-AM 720.

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Dominican Republic Gastronomic Patriots Part 2
Posted on September 23, 2015 by Matt Riewer   Permalink



That evening, we had an appointment. The curious part of all of us, enthusiasm and ideas as well. Jeff and Jennifer Spitz, directors and producers of Food Patriots , instead of moving his passion and faith in the power of change that exists in the hands of a group united by the same values.

The meeting began with the personal stories behind each of the protagonists who lead a move in favor of conscious power through the cultivation, sale and adopting a lifestyle that respects the environment. Thank input attendance and participation of Benita Garcia and Diana Giger Carola Pimentel and her husband to the meeting that arose after the screening of the documentary F ood Patriots UNAPEC

Benita Garcia, by the Organic Market Begaro located on the street Ramón Orbe # 21, Mirador Sur, shared interesting facts of domestic production of organic products in the country. Some of them left us very surprised, especially Jeff and Jennifer Spitz, who said that domestic production of organic products in the US is just 6% and the same, before the documentary Food Patriots was a 3%. Benita instead told us how the export demand for organic products for Dominican Republic had made ​​in our national production of organic products are found in over 12%.

Currently Dominican Republic is the largest producer of organic cocoa in the world, the second in the production of organic banana and organic coffee production ranks among the top 5 worldwide. Benita, confesses that all the boom and that are currently in organic products at the level of the media and social networks, the reality is that the bulk of public attending your market is people suffering from cancer to a much lesser extent, people who have decided to adopt a healthy lifestyle and want to make a change in their habits.

Benita highlighted the privilege we have to have a prosperous land that allows any yard without great care, a person can consume products rather than organic, wild. He stressed that one of the problems we face today is that people are not aware of what it means that a product is organic.

Meanwhile, Carola Giger, owner of “Brazaí “a” Natural lounge that seeks to contribute to the happiness of people by promoting healthy eating habits and increasing their welfare through deals made ​​with edible fruit Açaí “, told us about little credibility had their business idea to start from some Dominicans who was commenting on the project and the success currently enjoyed and through which promotes a healthy lifestyle.

To Carola, Food Patriots, he filled his head with ideas to create awareness in the people about healthy food. He told us of his desire to create a “mini organic garden in Brazaí where we can use -in the menu- everything there is harvested and that will inspire people to create their own urban gardens”.

It -Go to see Food Patriots , and meet people who did not know, he confirmed that it can be done and to do networking with them. It occurs to me also show the film in Brazaí for selected groups, and in turn, talks about riding. This part of the project I’m designing from this film.

Jeff and Jennifer Spitz listened not only with enthusiasm but also with amazing especially the move is already happening around organic food in the Dominican Republic and once again saw fulfilled the mission for which it was created this documentary that tells about your struggle to change the power system that condemns us to eat genetically altered foods and meats full of antibiotics.

Diana Pimentel, chef and healthy eating coach congratulated the directors of the documentary and the organizers of the 5th. Dominican Environmental Film Festival , for the initiative to present and promote the dissemination of the documentary “opens the minds of people to get interested in really knowing where their food comes from and be more observant and critical information they bring on the labels of processed products we consume. ”

“I understand that we must not only feed people but nurture, why it is so important to me to include organic products in the food that I offer, although this sometimes impacting a bit on my earnings to pay my offers healthy menus” . He emphasized Diana, who also told us about the project that bears with her husband to create an organic vegetable garden in the backyard in order to teach students healthy eating habits.

– Food Patriots reminded me that what I do is what I should be doing and I’m not alone here in Dominican Republic, there are many people creating awareness, who believe that health enters the mouth. I loved also know that many young people in the United States involved in creating organic gardens.

The meeting began with a small group of strangers enjoyed gourmet network patriots with more motivation, ideas and above all arms to unite for a common goal. From here we invite you to take small steps to change the way we eat for our health and the environment beginning with a gradual switch to organic, local and fresh 10% of our total purchases. This will gradually accustomed our economy and our palate to new consumption habits healthier.

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Dominican Republic Gastronomic Patriots Part 1
Posted on September 16, 2015 by Matt Riewer   Permalink



The 5ta. Dominican Republic Environmental cinema , an initiative of the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development and the Global Democracy and Development (FUNGLODE) Foundation , has left its mark in the hearts and dreams of many young people, entrepreneurs, educators and innovators who had the opportunity to see how much you can achieve when working as a team for that which is common to all our earthly home. There were six days of screenings, seminars, awards and social environment in favor of giving another dimension to our natural resources activities, a new perspective on the man-world relationship, but above all, sowed the seed of passion, desire protective pride have as much or more than others in so little space, and particularly, as Bocatips, I can say that the basis for the formation of the next sat gastronomic Patriots Dominican Republic.

The projection of Food Patriots in UNAPEC on Thursday September 10 not only alerted the audience about the danger to health overuse of antibiotics in meat and genetically modified seeds, but motivated them to empower their diet. “No, as is said Jennifer Spitz, co-producer of the documentary-not to eat this or that, it is to know where it comes from what I’m eating and how it was raised or grown, it is adopting a philosophy of conscious to our health and to the environment that gives us power that food”

-Who, Starting today undertake to initiate change in their eating habits ?. This question spontaneously collapsed cultural distances between viewers of the film and its directors, Jeff and Jennifer Spitz . After the curtain arms raised an avid tell their experiences with home gardens and the rise in consumption of organic products in our country public was hiding.

The stories we hear in the cultural hall of UNAPEC Bonetti Burgos spoke wistfully of those days when the houses are planted to consume and share: avocado, mango, cherry, guava, wide cilantro, cilantrico, tasty chili and parsley.

The public quickly stepped aside shyness, -maniobra it very easy for a Dominican and thus met an agronomist who planted in his yard for years organic products, but complained about how expensive and sometimes difficult to ago in Santo Domingo buy certain products and tools that allow you to bring your large-scale project.

We heard a sweet girl confess how the film, and the high cost of bananas and other root vegetables sold in our stores, motivated him to improvise an orchard, but to live in an apartment he saw it as a privilege for those living in homes.

And so Jeff and Jennifer Spitz were listening to other stories that eventually connect skillfully managed in a common solution: start with gradual changes of 10% in the way we consume. Instead run to replace all super plant for organic vegetables, buy a few, or change the regular peanut butter, for which he is natural. In this way we will make a healthy habit for our bodies, our environment and our pockets long to stay away from diseases.

Flattery documentary, acknowledgments its directors and contact exchanges spread more than usual. Small groups were formed out of the room, and among them, one in particular would have a private meeting with the players behind the social movement that has already become Food Patriots . In the second part of this post I will share the details of that meeting.

The seed was sown gastronomic patriotism. From now on, with a little dedication and fertilizer and other much more time, we can see the fruits of work in this generation by switching to a conscious feeding our body and the environment.

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How to Recognize a Gastronomic Patriot?,
in “Food Patriots” you will find hundreds.

Posted on September 1, 2015 by Matt Riewer   Permalink


I do not know if some of my colleagues or followers will happen the same, but on many occasions, and these are becoming more frequent, I feel that this whole cult around the restaurants and cuisine that participated assiduously, we created a bubble we isolated from the truth that lies behind their tasty dishes and robust products we see on supermarket shelves.

Talk about the effects on our health of the antibiotics used in meat we eat, GM seeds used in processed foods we buy and silent all these ingredients do not stop to identify when selecting a product.

The fight against this reality begins in our decision to purchase and life. It is our responsibility to make the market give us what we want to eat and if we eat healthy, we have to buy healthy and discard usual, which put within reach of our hands because we have so decided a handful of traders. It’s not easy, I know. I’m part of this great mass that faces every week before the dilemma of time vs. Purchase healthy, super vs. the local flea market, the mega carrot vs. the small and not so beautiful but organic vegetable. To achieve this we must be passionate about the cause and defend the country like it. So these people are heroes, patriots Restaurants champions of food as a source of health.

This is the theme of Food Patriots , one of the films that present the court gastronomic Environmental Film Festival Dominican More than a film, Food Patriots is a movement to change the eating habits of America and further, seeks to impact the next generation through a film full of humor and inspiring to change.

An American mother whose son was near death from eating contaminated food began a dizzying quest to understand the food industry and improve the eating habits of your family. It is a personal documentary, besides surprising, funny and moving, which develops as a home movie. Food Patriots shows the posture of various proponents of a conscious food, people who intend to carry out a revolution to change consumption habits and food acquisition Americans, and educate the next generation of consumers.

In Dominican Republic we have already begun to take small steps in that direction. From 4 to 5 years is becoming easier to locate an organic flea market or organic products begin to be sold in salons, pharmacies and more recently, a kind of super-markets of imported organic products that offer both a small existence of local products.

Best of projections Film Festival, is to have the presence of the director and co producer of the film, Jeff and Jennifer Spitz who can to ask them questions about how they achieved the results in your life and in this film .

The shows will be taking place from 8 to 13 September. The program is very comprehensive and covers several provinces. One of the few screenings of this film that we in Santo Domingo will take place on Thursday, September 10th at 7:00 pm. college UNAPEC . After the screening, there will be a panel entitled “reflect on healthy and sustainable food.” It will be a space to talk about the revolution that is brewing in the world to change consumer habits and educate the next generation of consumers. It is time to become aware of our power.

Entrance to all screenings is free. Visit the website of the Show and arm their own program of films through the mobile application created to have all of the information about the screenings, panels, provinces and places where they will be performing

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Food Patriots: the quest for better food
Posted on July 9, 2015 by Matt Riewer   Permalink

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 12.00.53 PM
From WGN Radio: After Hours With Rick Kogan

Filmmaker and Columbia College Film teacher Jeff Spitz joins After Hours to discuss his documentary Food Patriots. Inspired by his son’s battle with the devastating food-borne illness campylobacter, the film explores the consumer’s need to demand locally grown, organic, fresh food as opposed to antibiotic-laden foods that can breed “superbugs” such as campylobacter.

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Spoonful of Change Can Bring Better Foods
Posted on May 27, 2015 by Matt Riewer   Permalink

Sue Ontiveros of the Chicago Sun-Times writes about her experience with Food Patriots.

Did something in the ice cream cause the death of three people?

While sorting that out, the entire supply of Blue Bell ice cream has been recalled.

Another company’s packaged macadamia nuts have been pulled from supermarket shelves because of salmonella concerns.

And chickens have been yanked from grocery stores because of concern the birds were exposed to a chemical used to bleach textiles.

All this, in just the last month.

I’m a former food editor who continues to blog about the subject. For me, food has always has been something to celebrate and enjoy. Now it’s also something that forces me to be on high alert about my choices.

I feel like a detective in grocery stores. Not just a wary private eye, but a David going against the Goliath of food producers and a government that doesn’t pay enough attention to what’s going on.

Chicagoan Jennifer Amdur Spitz knows firsthand what I’m talking about.

When her healthy college-age son (a football player) contracted food poisoning after eating contaminated chicken, he was given an antibiotic and the medical assessment that the whole thing would be over in a matter of days, five tops.

It wasn’t.

As he remained quite ill, as antibiotic after antibiotic failed to make him well, it was “scary as heck,” Amdur Spitz says now, remembering how helpless she felt, though her son did eventually improve.

“Everyone was perplexed as to why he wasn’t getting any better,” she says.

That was a wakeup call for Amdur Spitz, head of her namesake strategic communications/public relations firm, and husband Jeff Spitz, an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker. They decided they were going to be “more mindful” of their food choices. Through their company, Groundswell Educational Films, they chronicled their journey, which included raising chickens at the family’s former Northbrook home.

The result is “Food Patriots,” a 74-minute, often quite humorous film about a very serious subject: the safety of our food. I think those funny moments make the film so accessible to so many. For a little more than a year they have been showing it just about anywhere people want to gather and watch.

One message they hope people take away is the importance of improving our food choices. In the documentary, they introduce others who have taken small steps that eventually led to big changes in the food supply for not only their families, but their communities. It’s a really inspiring film.

Amdur Spitz started her family’s changes by making sure that 10 percent of their grocery purchases were fresh, organic and local. That’s doable, right?

In “Food Patriots,” Amdur Spitz and others go to their legislators with a signed petition that seeks to take the risk of antibiotic superbugs out of school lunches.

The lawmakers were, for the most part, unmoved, and they’re “still not interested,” Amdur Spitz says.

But if we, the consumers, change, oh, those legislators are going to notice. More important, food companies will pay attention. We change up our eating habits and the impact of those purchases are noticed.

“We can drive that change by what we eat,” says Amdur Spitz.

Impossible dream? Look at Target, with almost 2,000 U.S. stores. The chain just announced it’s moving away from processed packaged fare and – because of consumer demand – will offer more organic selections. Everyday shoppers made their preferences known, impacted the company’s bottom line, and change is occurring.

Let’s think about that the next time we go to the grocery store.

To read the full article please visit The Chicago Sun-times

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Video Librarian Review: Food Patriots is “Eye opening”
Posted on March 5, 2015 by Food Patriots   Permalink

Check out the latest review of Food Patriots, from Video Librarian:


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Food Patriots is the “Food Movie for Everyone”
Posted on October 29, 2014 by Dawn Dewald   Permalink

Food Patriots was reviewed by DietsInReview.com as the “Food Movie for Everyone.”

Food Patriots is the food movie for people who aren’t in to food movies. It takes a simple, non-preachy approach to the topic at hand; which is ultimately eating better, healthier food.

The documentary centers on Jeff and Jennifer Spitz and their two sons, Sam and A.J. A few years ago, Sam got sick after eating contaminated chicken. What should have been an easily-treated case of food poisoning was actually an antibiotic resistant bacterial infection that caused the football player to lose an alarming 30 pounds in 4 weeks.

After the health scare with their son, Jennifer knew the family had to make a change. Food Patriots follows the family as they make small, meaningful changes to their eating and shopping habits, finding plenty of other Food Patriots along the way.

There’s LaManda Joy who founded a community garden project in downtown Chicago reminiscent of the Victory Gardens of World War II. Then there are the athletes at the University of Wisconsin who are learning how to grocery shop, eat well, and cook for themselves now that they are away from home; and plenty more Food Patriots in between.

Jennifer describes Food Patriots as “people who change the way they eat, buy and teach the next generation about food.” For the Spitz’, that meant starting their own backyard garden and building a chicken coop. They also changed to buying more local, organic and fresh produce.

The idea of making small changes to make a big difference permeates throughout the film. It’s the concept of making a 10 percent change, something manageable for everyone, that drives the Food Patriots. That 10 percent can mean something different for everyone. It may be buying 10 percent more local, fresh, organic produce or 10 percent more antibiotic-free meat.

Food Patriots puts a lot of emphasis on “voting with your purchases.” The Spitzes and many of the people they encounter over the course of the documentary believe that what they buy in the grocery store is their way of telling the food companies what kind of products they want. If fewer people buy processed food, over time, less of it will be available.

All the talk about small changes individuals can make is impressively empowering. The people the Spitz family encounter aren’t bigwigs, they’re everyday people who had an idea and ended up making a big difference. Making change 10 percent at a time is good enough, and more importantly, is something everyone can do. For more information, or to join the movement, visit foodpatriots.com.

Read the full movie review online at http://www.dietsinreview.com/diet_column/10/food-patriots-is-the-food-movie-for-everyone-improving-health-10-percent-at-a-time/#vh12uPQF6uvTIvIy.99

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WBEZ: Students Take a Closer Look at Their Food
Posted on June 16, 2014 by Sarah Flagg   Permalink

Amundsen High School students are changing the way they eat, buy and talk about food after watching Food Patriots. The CPS high school put on a fair that showed off what they learned along with their new community garden.

Becky Vevea, from WBEZ, came to the event and produced this story:

Watch our webisode from the fair.

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Columbia College Chicago: Truth to Power – Documentary Filmmaking as Catalyst for Change
Posted on May 16, 2014 by Food Patriots   Permalink

Cara Lee Birch from Columbia College Chicago reports on Food Patriots among other projects from Groundswell Educational Films:

There’s a spirit to the Spitz family style of documentary filmmaking that’s distinctively grounded in the Chicago tradition of storytelling. Like the eminent voices of the past now woven into the city’s fabric —Sinclair, Algren, Wright, Brooks and Terkel, among others—they take an intimate, informed and impassioned approach to social justice issues.

The Spitzes not only reveal a food revolution as the film unfolds, but in true Chicago social activist form, Jennifer partnered with Change.org to collect more than 174,000 signatures to remove the risk of superbugs from the school lunch program. It was the first time Change.org partnered with a mom/filmmaker to lobby for a policy change.

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