TED Conversations

Adam Burk

Founder/ Director, Treehouse Institute


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How will you help to fulfill Jamie Oliver's TED Prize wish?

Jamie's wish: “I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.”

At TED2011 we saw an update from many TEDprize winners including Jamie Oliver. The Food Revolution has some exciting new initiatives underway including new community kitchens and the mobile Revolution.

My full-time job is dedicated to fighting obesity, particularly through improving school food. I am currently releasing funding to 10 schools in Maine to begin or improve school garden programs and have been working with these schools to improve their wellness policies including nutrition standards.

Obesity is a large issue (no pun intended) and it takes whole communities to engage in the readily available solutions we have to end the obesity crises. So what part are you playing? What's working? What challenges are you facing? What can you offer to others to help them do more in their communities?


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  • Mar 11 2011: My son is 15 years old and since he was age 2 and attending school he has brought his lunch from home. Early on I was appalled at what they were feeding the kids at the various schools he has attanded. Since about age 8 he has been making his own lunch daily--we shop together and pick out his lunch food together and it always includes fresh vegatables, like carrots, and fresh fruit like apples and oranges that he can pack along with a sandwich. He is allowed to pack a couple cookies or other small dessert item, mostly cookies that we bake at home.

    If you could get most parentsto teach their kids to make and take a healthy lunch to school maybe the schools would have to compete with that and offer better fare.
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      Mar 19 2011: I applaud you and parents like you. But if you dig deeper and look at the larger systemic issue with schools and poverty the children this affects the most are the low income families who don't have the resources to do what you do. So we all agree children need to eat healthier. Now look at the state education system and their current focus on how they procure food. Their system is broken. They truck in foods as commodities which we all know are highly processed, high fat, sodium and sugar. They are very nutrient deficient. They do try their best with what they have however programs like Head Start have been attempting to work with these school districts to improve the quality and advocating exactly what Jamie Oliver is saying. Speaking for myself I have been doing that for 15 years. I am but one voice when many are needed.

      If schools focused on local fresh options and connected with farm to plate our nation's addiction to junk foods would be better equalized. And it all starts with our seeds of education.
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        Mar 20 2011: I do agree with the fact that low income families do not have the resources to do it, but I also believe that your diligent efforts, such as raising awareness among us, will benefit even those in the low income stratum. I am a strong believer in sharing of information, and those who are poor are also strongly related to poor education. Given the tough economic times, I could consider myself and family poor right now, husband unemployed and I going to school. We have a daughter and life is tough, but my decisions of keeping my daughter healthy, by always trying to eat at home, and cooking from scratch, having our fruits and vegetables always readily available, is a matter of decision and being well informed. I benefit from food stamps right now, but i never go to the store to buy soda or prepackaged frozen meals. The only difference between me and the others who are unfortunate right now is probably the lack of information and interest in being educated. I often go to the families and children department for regular check-ups with my daughter and I see parents giving their children coke in their feeding bottles. It is appalling...I wish parents...first and foremost stop the vicious cycle we have gotten ourselves in. I think that fast food should be very expensive, with high taxes incurred, so that people can be stopped from having such quick access to it.
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          Mar 20 2011: Ana-Corina, I agree with you and applaud you for going the extra mile for yourself and your family. Raising awareness and ensuring access are two components necessary to help more people eat healthy foods.
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      Mar 19 2011: Christine, I, too, applaude you for ensuring that your child has eaten well and understands the connections between food and health.

      In addition to Ruth's point that many families simply can't afford to pack healthy options for their kids, schools are incredibly ill-suited to compete with your packed lunch. Food services have to make meals for around $2 per student. That $2 needs to cover ingredient and labor costs; sometimes rent and utilities too! Unless a school board grants food services budget leeway they have to stay in the black, all on $2-2.50 a meal. Now we now the business model that sustains on that model. It's called fast food.

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