More Important Dads in the Food World

Happy-Fathers-Day-20101In honor of Father’s Day, I am updating my list of “Most Important Dads in the Food World” based on feedback from readers. The original list was inspired by a Twitter discussion about the “Most Important Moms in the Food World.” Bettina Siegel summed up the debate in this New York Times piece:

Was it fair for mothers to be singled out for special recognition, but not fathers or the childless? Was the “top moms” list actually demeaning to those named? And were some of us, by expressly linking our advocacy to our motherhood, inviting society to marginalize us? After all, men rarely “lead” with their fatherhood in their professional lives.

I agreed with her position that:

Historically, putting mothers on a pedestal was a backhanded way of keeping women down. But should throwing away the pedestal mean ignoring the unique perspective motherhood brings? Becoming a mom led me to find my voice as an activist and it continues to animate my work. If that rocks the feminist boat or gives fodder to my sexist critics, that’s their problem, not mine. We moms have a long history of bringing about social change, and I’m proud to be a small part of that legacy.

I find it strange that we are not only de-legitimized by some as activists for being mothers but also de-legitimized as mothers for being activists.  That does not seem to be the case for fathers.  In fact, the activism of the men on the list seems to be enhanced when they share their stories of how fatherhood has played an important role in their work.  The original list included :

Peter Attia

Robert Lustig

David Katz

Jamie Oliver

Yoni Freedhoff

Aaron Flores

Michael Pollan

Daniel Flanders

I am also adding:

Michael Jacobson: is co-founder and executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

In pre-picky days, when Sonya was small, Jacobson and Lenhoff shielded her from junk food. He was proud that they had managed to keep her out of a McDonald’s until she was nearly 5. At Halloween, they handed out raisins instead of Tootsie Rolls and Hershey’s Kisses. And at Sonya’s first few birthdays, Jacobson bypassed Carvel and served homemade carrot cake, not always with icing…

At dinner, the conversation turns to rising obesity rates among children around the world. Sonya mentions a McDonald’s in Asia that plans to host weddings, complete with a “cake” made of McDonald’s signature apple pie.

As Jacobson registers mild alarm, mostly over the apple-pie cake, a smile slowly breaks across Sonya’s face. “If I wanted to get married there, would you still walk me down the aisle, Dad?” she asks. “Or would you die first?”

Her father laughs and pronounces: “Die first.”

“Poor Sonya, the daughter of the food police,” he says later, smiling ruefully. “What a sad fate.”

Hemi Weingarten:  Founder and CEO of Fooducate

A few years ago, when my children were still babies, we bought a glow-in-the-dark yogurt in the supermarket. I was curious as to the source of the bright pink color and read an ingredient list for the first time in my life. I was shocked to discover Red #40, a synthetic dye, with potential links to hyperactivity and cancer is being used in kiddie yogurt. In Europe it is banned and beet juice is used instead.

I started researching the modern food industry and discovered many other ingredients or processes for food manufacturing that seemed to make good business sense for companies, but were not in my family’s best interest. Fooducate started out as a blog to help myself and other parents be more cognizant of the food we buy for our families.

Eric Schlosser:  Producer: Food, Inc.

With my own kids once I did this research, it was like, okay no more. That was it for them and McDonald’s. My son was six and my daughter was seven.

PR Watch: How did your kids feel about cutting off McDonald’s?

Eric Schlosser: They were really unhappy, you know. But that’s the way it goes. It’s a form of high-risk behavior for kids, this fast food diet. So far, there isn’t any rebellion in the household, i.e. I don’t see any signs that one of them will become a McDonald’s franchisee to just kind of stick it to me.

Eric Mar: ‎Supervisor – District 1, City & County of San Francisco

“As a father I know our families need help when they live in environments saturated with sugary drinks that are aggressively marketed everywhere children turn,” said District One Supervisor Eric Mar. “I share our collective desire to make San Francisco better for families and to continue to be a city that protects our public health and allows all neighborhoods to thrive.”

Kevin Strong: MD and Founder of Dunk the Junk.

As a father of three young children and a pediatrician, I am always wrestling with the challenges of mealtime. After years of experimentation, frustration, and joy (and messy tantrums), I have come to believe that what the child literacy experts say about reading is also true for healthy eating: fun is the magic ingredient!

Children love books, children love silliness, and – believe it – children do love good food. This book brings these crucial ingredients together for a healthy and fun mealtime. (Face it: the purveyors of junk food bundle a ton of “fun” with their unhealthy products. Our job as parents is to make broccoli just as fun.) So this book was inspired by the animal obsession of my young son, who wouldn’t eat broccoli . . . until he realized he could be a giant brontosaurus devouring small trees in one crunch. And now he is an armadillo, a beetle, a camel, and no broccoli is safe from a thorough defoliating.

David Gillespie: Author of Sweet Poison

I have a rule in this house which is: “Party food is for parties.” So, it’s not for every minute of every hour of every day. It’s for parties. And our kids go to parties with kids in their class and they’ll eat sugar and that’s just the way it is. But their exposure to sugar is infinitesimally small compared to all of their peers.

And the interesting thing is that if they do eat sugar, pig out at a party, they often come home with a hangover. And this really surprised me. And I’m not joking when I call it a hangover. It is like an adult with an alcohol hangover. They have headaches. They start saying things like, “Never again.” You know? Are really genuinely meaning it. Until the next time.

Mark Bittman: Op-Ed and food columnist for the New York Times

When Kate arrived, everything changed. My wife was typically busy and tired, and she soon began medical school. It was clearly incumbent upon me, not to mention easier and more sensible, to lighten household burdens rather than try to nurse the newborn. I enjoyed the cooking. I was providing sound nourishment to my wife and kid, and I liked that…Kate ate this stuff, as she ate the Chinese, Indian, and Italian food I was learning how to cook. I didn’t give her much choice. (Years later, she and her sister, Emma, would tease me publicly about “the month we ate nothing but squid,” or “week after week of pig parts.”)

Alan Greene: Pediatrician and author.

At a time when obesity is affecting increasing numbers of American children, we teach our kids about healthy nutrition. When we choose to pay fair prices to the farmers who grow our foods without synthetic chemicals, we teach them about justice. When we choose food grown in sustainable ways that protect air, water, soil and wildlife, we teach our kids respect for the planet. We teach them to one day be fathers and mothers themselves, creating an inheritance for their children in turn.

We teach, we provide, we protect.

We are dads.

Happy Father’s Day to these dads and all dads who are working to make a better food world for kids.


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