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 18 2011: I have initiated a Victory Garden 100 project that will connect 100 households in my local communities with gardens of their own to grow based on their household size. This will be supported with local resources and the passion of making real food connections to at risk populations. This will be made possible with connections I have made with generous individuals growing seeds from donated resources and bringing on board a local university to help grow the needed plants. Our work goal is to then have a nutrition plan that will support households in education about foods they are growing and foods they have not tried into quick easy recipes. I want to write a cook book. I am also reviewing all menu items and purchasing to remove all high fructose corn syrup in any menu planning. I firmly believe in this mission, and support Jamie Oliver's approach and passion in helping to save lives.

    I have recently signed up for and in the middle of taking a Garden 4 Humanity course that addresses the needs in the communities in which I work to help support the mission from a ground up manner.

    I also work with local school districts food service and plan to share this video with them for reference and inspiration.
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      Mar 19 2011: Ruth, this is great. Can you tell me more about how the project works? How are households chosen and how are they supported in growing gardens?

      I am so happy to hear that you work with the local schools. These connections are vital to help food services do what they may not otherwise be able to, because of budget constraints or simply because they don't know that the community support for change is there.
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        Mar 20 2011: I started a garden at work for two reasons. 1) To expose employees fresh quick healthy options with demonstrations how to cook produce. 2) For the emergency food pantry I oversee to provide organic produce.

        From there I realized quickly the need for these consumer of the emergency food pantry to learn how to grow their own veggies. I surveyed pantry consumer for 1 month and well over 90% desired to learn to grow. I was surprised by the statistics that of the 100 households more than 33% are families of 5 or more. The households who have children are my primary focus. With the local extension office we are connecting families with garden mentors through Master Gardeners and Garden 4 Humanity. Each household will receive a pack of live plants and seeds based on their household size. We will also provide a Victory Garden Handbook that contains recipes and will offer them opportunities to learn how to preserve their harvest by canning, freezing, etc. An important piece to this is showing them how to save seeds from the heirloom varieties.

        Thank you about the schools. I work with three different school districts. I am planning to send them this link.
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          Mar 20 2011: This is a comprehensive effort Ruth, obviously based in real needs and expressed desires. Kudo's to you!

          Folks in my office are working with food pantries too. Some pantries are growing their own food and others are looking for closer connections with farmers. We also support a program where local chefs volunteer to teach cooking classes based on food either picked directly off the pantry shelves or with $10 worth of ingredients from the market. These classes are taught in series of six to provide a wide array of skills and recipes. We also support community gardens, and work largely in rural areas. So we are looking for innovative ways to practice this concept, such as gardens based at affordable housing complexes.

          I am going to look into Garden 4 Humanity as I have not heard of this effort before. Thanks Ruth!
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        Mar 20 2011: http://ccetompkins.org/garden/community-school-gardens/gardens-4-humanity

        Nice! We are all out there marching one step forward at a time! The heroes are the volunteers.

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