Contrary to rumors, I have not fallen off the planet. It’s been two months since my last blog post about the Chef’s Cycle for No Kid Hungry. I spent a crazy few weeks of editing, shooting, cooking, then more writing, for my new cookbook being released in November 2014. I also moved to my new digs in the States and am currently writing this from Sydney, Australia (welcome to my crazy life) where I’ll be spending the next two months or so helping out my good friends at Miramare Gardens here in the Northern Beaches. After working on the cookbook I realized how much I missed being in the kitchen and this opportunity has given me a chance to utilize the garden and season to reconnect with my passion for cooking and people.
I recently signed on as the Ambassador for Lifestart Cook for Kids here in Australia. In 1996 eight families and supporters came together with a vision to create a program focused on the needs and priorities of families of children with disabilities. Since 1996, Lifestart has grown from one center and now offers early childhood intervention, transition to school and school age services in seven centers across Greater Sydney, as well as a number of outreach programs. These services have made a difference in the lives of thousands of children and their families. Lifestart currently supports over 750 families and children. Their committed team of therapists, special educators, social workers, support and management staff work with families to help give their children the best possible start in life.
So let me first address the 300 mile #ChefsCycle4NKH ride from NYC to DC. I can’t believe it’s been just over two months already since I embarked on the ride seeking to raise $25,000 for No Kid Hungry, as it seems like only yesterday. The good news is my legs didn’t fall off and we raised just under our target amount, about $23,000. We were blessed to be armed and joined by a bevy of new best friends who all put in the effort and miles, cycling and pitching in with their social media platforms to not only raise money, but to help spread the word about No Kid Hungry, #TeamNKH and the wonderful work that is being done in the fight against childhood hunger.
I’d like to send out a special thanks to Shake Shack, Cycle Sport and Volvo along with my key co-riders and support team, specifically Jamie Adams, Ryan Hux, Allan NG, and Nick Stefanelli. Special shout out to Izzy Rohr, who couldn’t make the actual ride, but clocked up 100 miles and a $1,001 on a stationary bike. To all those that contributed, donated, spread the word and supported us throughout this campaign, I cannot thank you enough for your time and generosity. You are all heroes in my eyes!
So what’s next? Well we, The Ride Team, are gearing up for the Ride Across America in spring of 2015 in hopes of raising a monumental amount of money and awareness for No Kid Hungry. Please keep re-tweeting, posting and donating when you can because the fight is not over until we win it and end childhood hunger in America forever!
One final thought that has been on my mind about the fight to end childhood hunger... The effort to feed our under-served or food deficient kids and families is admirable and frankly, a no-brainer. No child or adult should ever go hungry. But, I think there is one more important step we could and should take. Like the initiatives of my friend, Farmer Lee Jones of The Chef's Garden has discussed with me and my colleague Louis Luzzo on many occasions, in addition to making sure our kids are getting food, the emphasis should also be on getting them the "right" kinds of food. In my opinion, if we can go so far as to provide a meal for a child, we should also be teaching and providing them the right food and providing them education on how and where their food comes from. They should be taught that instead of processed, modified and altered food products, they should be taught to access nutritious, healthy, natural and non-genetically modified foods.
As we showed in an example previously here on the website, Healthy Eating on a Budget: "We have a child who is hungry. So, we buy him a Happy Meal and spend about $5.00. Yes, the child has had a meal. But, is it a healthy, nutritious, good meal? Not really. Is it the best use of that $5.00? Not really. See this way it costs about $5 and feeds one person. The alternative, just as an example, is to buy a nice beef shank and a side dish of vegetables that can conceivably feed a family of four, stretching that same $5.00 to get the best value. Plus it is more nutritionally viable.”
More importantly, in my opinion, and overlooked is that while the Happy Meal may fill the child’s belly, what does it fill it with? Chemicals? GMOs? Why not go the extra mile and teach the family, child and everyone involved how to eat better, more nutritious food that is good for them and not filled with harmful chemicals and fillers? It’s like the saying, ”Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” It’s the same principle. If we are going to give under-served, food deficient children access to meals, why stop halfway? Why not give them access to healthy, natural, non-GMO foods?
I have more to say on this topic but I’ll leave that for the next blog. To that end, here’s a sneak preview and except from my blog, “The Lost Art of Living” and the section concerning GMOs and eating healthy: “Is it really any wonder that statistics show that the majority of our country is considered overweight or obese with many suffering from food allergies, diabetes, cancer and a host of other physical ailments? Most of these physical problems can be traced back to not only our lifestyle and eating choices, but the country’s food delivery system, which makes it very hard to break this destructive and harmful pattern, as it, directed by the big food conglomerates like Monsanto moves toward GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms).
A full 61% of the American diet is now processed food, flour, sugar and oils and many of these processed foods have not even 10% of the original nutrients they contained before modification and processing. The change, in my opinion, needs to come from the top; our legislators, food producers and professionals, school nutritionists and school boards need to step up and start educating our children and those who depend on the system to do the right thing by them; and make the system actually do the right thing by them...”
For now, I’ll leave you all with a big “I’m baaaaack” and thank you for being patient with me and for continuing to support me, my career and the things I feel are important. I promise that no matter how busy I get, I will always make time to post here and keep connected to you. This has been an interesting year in many ways, some good, some bad, but the one thing I can always count on is all of you. YOU are the reason and motivation for what I do and I appreciate the loyalty and support you all show me time and time again, and I thank you for being here.
Till next time!