Adam Burk

Founder/ Director, Treehouse Institute


This conversation is closed.

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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    Apr 6 2011: Without meaning to run an advertisement here for my website, I'll just say that half of my site is dedicated to Childhood Obesity. I try to give parents tools to help, as well as information on important complications like diabetes. I have a reasonably large list of culinary tips to cut down on calories while improving flavor. Most of all, I try to give parents support. We answer questions from parents everyday - as quickly as we can - and I think the "direct contact with professionals" we offer is really having an impact. I'm sure most people can't spend all their time building websites like ours - this is my personal and professional passion - and that THIS level of commitment isn't needed by everyone. It's just that THIS is how I spend my life. I sure wish our society was different, and that I didn't have to do it.
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      Apr 6 2011: Dr. Katz, thanks for your sensitivity about ensuring you were telling your story and not promoting a business. Thanks also for your dedication and perseverance. May our collective efforts for health be successful!
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      Apr 6 2011: Dear Dr. Katz,
      You write: "I have a reasonably large list of culinary tips to cut down on calories while improving flavor", so I went to your site (accessed through your profile) anticipating recipies using fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs. There are quite a few advertisements on your site for prepared foods that are not particularly healthy and expensive, in my perception, Your web site looks impressive, but all the advertisements for the pre-packaged foods was disappointing. Am I missing something?
  • Apr 3 2011: Visit to see how low-income California communities are successfully changing the local "environment" for health -- including better school lunches! See profiles of community-led changes at

    A whole low-income community works together -- including schools, neighborhood groups, public health departments -- to improve the "environment," that goes beyond individual change, to changing the possibility for whole communities to have better health:

    • Changing school lunches.
    • Engaging youth in community change ( and
    • Creating safe places to play (community joint use of schoolyards at
    • Bringing healthy food to communities, including market makeovers for corner stores (

    More examples of successful community action for change at
    Video on Filling the Food Desert at:
    Videos of community change at:
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      Apr 4 2011: Merry, this is all excellent work. I know there are good resources on the sites you offer, but I am interested in what advice and suggestions you might offer to others.
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    Apr 7 2011: I am a chef at a homeless shelter in Vancouver BC. I fight this fight on a daily basis. No budget, abundant hungry people, in all states of nutritional danger. I am trying in vain to implement a proper food security system, and instead of buying the evil frozen cabbage rolls from sysco, buying locally, and taking the time to make them by hand. but we are a low priority...amazing since we are the people that feed the most at risk people, and instead of feeding them healthy meals, we bow down to the budget, and the ennui of a great many cooks and chefs in this industry and buy frozen to plate. a sad place...we waste Styrofoam cups by the bucket, because cups are too expensive, and people will lose them, but we are filling landfills, killing our world, and at the same time improving nothing. handing out fish, instead of teaching people how to fish, or cook as Mr. oliver points out. there is so much to do, and so little support by which to do it. I stay at my job because i know that everything i make is by hand with love and with the best products i have , but i am one cook, and not even a lead....but i will never stop trying, and with the support and amazing ideas of people such as mr. oliver....i gain more voices to fight the most important fight...healthy eating.
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      Apr 7 2011: Casey,

      I applaud your compassion, dedication, and perseverance. I used to work as a homeless outreach worker and empathize with the challenges you are up against.

      Does Vancouver have a food policy council? If so, I suggest plugging into their efforts, if not, I suggest thinking about convening one. There's a great conference coming up in Portland, Oregon, focused on food policy councils. Even if you can't make it to the conference, there are lots of great resources that the Community Food Security Coalition provides on the website.
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    Apr 5 2011: After watching Jamie's wish last year I was really excited to start cooking, even though I had never done it before. So I downloaded Jamie's app for iPhone and started to learn some basic stuff. My family used to be terrible at cooking, so one day I decided to encourage them to cook with me, and they did. It was amazing, funny and delicious. We made one of Jamie's recipes from the app, it took about 30 minutes and it was really easy. So since then we've been making great meals, and even my 4 year old siblings join us at the kitchen. We've also bought some recipes books, and I encourage you guys to download Jamie's app for iPhone, or, if you have an iPad, download the "How to cook everything" app, it's very good and both teach some basic techniques.
    This year I'm organizing a TEDx event at my school here in Brazil, therefore I'll try to find someone to talk about food education and inspire my friends to do the same as I did, but if I don't I'll certainly play his TED Wish. Great post by the way, Adam!
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      Apr 6 2011: Lucas, your story is very inspiring, thank you for sharing! Good luck on your TEDx event if you need any help feel free to contact me.
  • Apr 5 2011: Hello! My sophomore year at Vanderbilt University, I founded an organization called Healthy Head Start that promotes healthy and active lifestyles in elementary-high school classes in the Nashville Community ( Each year, we hold "Healthy Thanksgivings Feasts," lead gym classes, teach healthy lessons, and promote other events to show that eating healthy can taste good and living actively is fun and easy! Currently I am studying at Columbia University to receive a masters in molecular nutrition. This fall I am returning to Nashville to work for Vanderbilt's Center for Health Services to get back into the Nashville community not only promoting nutrition and healthy lifestyles but also partnering with Nashville's Brand NEW "Nashville Mobile Market" ( helping to distribute fresh fruits and vegetables in low SES communities that are typically considered 'food deserts.'

    I think what everyone is doing is amazing and I'm just happy to be apart of this food revolution that is sweeping the nation. Good luck to everyone in their endeavors! I hope one day we can all join forces and solve this nation's growing obesity epidemic and prevent these growing health care costs from consuming our disposable income for us and future generations.
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    Apr 3 2011: We're organizing our first TEDxTucsonSalon about Food. We're also helping educate and organize our community about local food, urban agriculture and permaculture.
  • Mar 20 2011: Starting next month (April 2011), I will be a grade 6 science teacher at a school in New Delhi, India. I am passionate about teaching and curriculum design and plan to teach my students about food. This should uncover several topics in the classroom -- from the components and sources of food to the changes in the molecular structure of food as a result of frying.

    My ultimate hope is for my students to make good decisions about the foods they choose to consume and for them to learn to cook in their kitchen at home and in our make-shift kitchen at the school.

    I wonder if anyone on this forum can lead me to curriculum that helps teachers teach students about food. I hope to enhance on the work done thus far and then share my work using a creative commons license.
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      Mar 20 2011: Kunal, first of all I applaud your intentions! Here are some websites that will either have resources or connect you to others that do. I am not going to list the website itself for fear that so many links would bounce my post.

      Center for Ecoliteracy
      Agriculture in the Classroom
      VT Feed
      Farm to
      Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution-teacher's toolkit
      The Lunch
      Grassroots International-Food for Thought and Action: A Food Sovereignty Curriculum

      Having looked at many of these, I can tell you that your plans to enhance these resources and share your work through a creative commons license would be a tremendous gift to the effort. Thank you.
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      • Mar 25 2011: Thanks Adam. The curriculum should be ready within 2 weeks. I can share it back with everyone on this forum.
      • Jun 19 2011: I am a grade 6 science teacher at a school in India, and for the past few weeks I have been working on designing video lessons on nutrition for middle school students.

        Those who are interested can access the video lessons here --

        I look forward to hearing your feedback. Finally, I have shared these video lessons and the corresponding presentations using a non-commercial, creative commons license. So feel free to use, share and improve on these lessons.
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    Mar 19 2011: First of all, I want to clarify that I was in a garden way before Jamie Oliver was even a twinkle in his mom and pop's eyes:>) LOL!

    64 years ago, my mother was in the garden when she went into labor for me. We went to the hospital, did our thing, and she brought me back home and into the garden again:>) I've been in the gardens ever since, growing food for my family and sharing with friends and neighbors. I know exactly what is going into the body when I pick fresh herbs, vegetables and fruits for a meal. In addition to the food, I also have over 500 varities of perennials (come back every year) annuals, tropicals, water features, etc. The gardens have been featured in 4 publications, in a TV segment, and they are open to the public, so I have an opportunity to connect with many people and often give tips on growing food and flowers. I've created many "garden addicts" along the way, when people realize all the benefits of growing their own food, and having the beauty of a garden in their space. Gardening is a wonderful physical exercise, meditative, creative process, healthy and joyful:>) I can't even imagine a life without a garden:>) Jamie is doing a GREAT job in helping me with a focus on healthy eating...healthy living! LOL:>)
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      Mar 19 2011: Colleen, this is wonderful. Your mother truly gave you a gift that most of us don't get. Do you have interest in helping more kids connect to the wonders and benefits of gardens?
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        Mar 19 2011: Absolutely! For years the kindergarten class came to the gardens for field trips. They came in the late spring/early summer, usually when the strawberries were producing, so we had fun with that:>) The teacher prepared them a couple weeks in advance with stories and information about gardens. They were always very curious, sweet and respectful. Although they are always invited, there is a new teacher, who apparently does not see the value in a field trip to the gardens. The neighbor kids are often wandering through with their friends and enjoying the gardens too:>) You are right is a great gift, given to me by my parents. We all have the opportunity to connect with gardening however. Even if we have very little land, there are many varities of fruits, veggies and herbs that can be grown in pots. Thanks for bringing this to our attention Adam:>)
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          Mar 20 2011: Colleen, the pressure to get through standards are perform well on standardized tests are eroding joyful learning in many places. Pair that with severe budget crises and the money just isn't there for field trips anymore. Teachers have to be grant writers too, just to do anything outside of the classroom or innovative these days. It's a sad state. In my work I have found that the closer gardens are to classrooms, particularly for the little ones the more time teachers can spend there with students. That's why a lot of the projects I am working on are right outside the classroom, next to the cafe, or playground!

          And you're right food can be grown in side, on the side of building, on decks, in containers, bags, and more. The vital link that has been lost at large, and is being rebuilt in communities (see Ruth's comments) all over, are caring mentors who have the time to garden with kids.

          Thanks Colleen!
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        Mar 20 2011: I understand the limits we have created in our world Adam. We can all take small steps toward changing the perception and practice of healthy eating/healthy living. My gardens are 1/8 of a mile from the school. It takes people in the school system who are ready, willing and able to change patterns:>) Keep up the good work:>)
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      Mar 25 2011: Wow, Colleen- it sounds like a paradise.
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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:

        Nice! We are all out there marching one step forward at a time! The heroes are the volunteers.
  • 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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    Jul 6 2011: Last month, I helped launch a "boat to school" program at a Maine high school. This entailed connecting the school with Maine fisherman, getting underutilized and sustainably caught fish, working with a local chef to develop recipes for student taste testing, and serving the winner from the taste tests on the menu. It was a great success, the cafe sold out, and they plan to continue selling the fish next school year approximately once per month.

    In addition to getting a tasty, nutritious meal, students got to hear the story of how the fish were caught, landed, and hand-filleted by one of the fisherman. Creating this connection of story and place with our food is vital.
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    Apr 7 2011: and btw, any suggestions or ideas are obviously greatly appreciated.
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    Apr 3 2011: Make the subject of Health, Fitness & Well-Being a subject of study from 1st through 12 grade with a curriculum designed by the best minds in the field.
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      Apr 3 2011: Jim, I just saw a screening of the film, Nourish, which is 26 minutes long and a good kick off for anyone (including in schools) to look at our food and food systems. Along with the Center for Ecoliteracy (some of those best minds you speak of) they have developed a middle school curriculum and are working on a high school and elementary curriculum too.

      One very interesting thing I learned was that research from Stanford has shown that the study of food systems and social impacts has greater impact on individual diet change as opposed to the traditional medical/scientific study of nutrition in schools. This could mean a radical overhaul of curriculum.

      More on the film and the accompanying movement,
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        Apr 5 2011: Looking forward to learning more about Nourish - thank you! Yes, I agree - the "subject" lesson must be taught in a way that children see the connection between lifestyle choices and their personal happiness.
        A radical idea for schools to consider is the creation of working gardens at schools that are used as a laboratory for learning about how food impacts on health, fitness & well-being... even more radical would be for communities to establish a garden for growing flowers, vegetables,fruits for sale to the local community. More radical would be for communities to maintain an animal barn and yard to raise chickens, eggs, etc.
        Things like this would re-define who we are and have a profound impact over the long-term on how we function as a society.
  • Mar 27 2011: I teach the community about Oriental Medicine and Ayurveda. These 2 traditions can contribute greatly to fixing the food problem. Fix it first, research it later.
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    Mar 25 2011: this always comes back to mind when I hear about Jamie's work and wish.
    as well as this Alice Waters
    to me, this is the TedTalks at its best Sprouting conversations and TedXtalks all over the world
    a smorgasbord for us to pick from as the spirit moves them
    this is Salman Khan's insights taking flight

    this is our all bringing our insights to the table to fill in the blanks of the big picture.
    looking at the even bigger picture, or wish we could top JAmie's wish with ours, which is peoples turning the sod to plant gardens. with vegetables and flowers. it is about growing your own oxygen, as Kamal Meattle share in his TedTalk .
    like we just do not see the missing link being the quality of the oxygen we breathe. . . and the scents of all the plants being our true medicine. . and look at the relative importance of the air we breathe compared to the food we eat.
    I also happen to come upon this article about hempseed. .
    If this is so , it is criminal not to seed it by planes over logged out areas and not feed the world by fall. and think of our all having the sweet sweet green grass of earth growing as high as the elephant's eye. and having enough fiber left over to make folks without any new shirt. Top this by the fact we'd have a near instant 5 foot ground cover which surely would have some effect on global warming . . and yes, loved that they had a garden in the white house the next spring.
    So naturally the Chancess of Jamie's wish coming true depends on how grand or as the latest word is, when the thoughts of growing our own food in our gardens, has us breathe in health and peace, when we walk into the garden and the flowers' greet us with their heavenly bouquet of sweets nuff to have your spirit remember you can breathe easy and deeply again.
  • Mar 23 2011: last night my 10 year old cooked sugar snap pea's from her own 4ft x 4ft garden -she harvested her first crop on Sunday- and the plants are thriving- she has 3 other veggies planted that are comming up underneath the pea's --and it's thrilling to get the plants through the 2 frosts that we had (covered her raised bed garden, for those nights). She has also harvested cilantro from the yard, and rosemary to use in her cooking. -her school had a farmer raising fresh veggies to use in the school cooking -so, she started with pulling weeds there with her class sometimes- and has graduated to having her own garden at home provide fresh ingredients. --Perhaps it helps that we are in the Real South Texas near the Rio Grande River, and the Gulf of Mexico. -at least it gives us three growing seasons.
    My wife and I signed Jaime's petition a while back after his TV episodes -that he showed here in the TED Talk air'd -and the change will need a massive push from society- Schools -even Charters like the one my daughter goes to -are resistant to any change.
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    Mar 7 2011: I saw the video and am greatly inspired. I am a 22-year-old woman from Indonesia. I am a Chinese-Indonesian and I grew up in a family where homemade food is the center of our lives. I admire my mother for cooking for her children and I feel grateful she did a good job in it. The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about my mother is her sweet and full-of-love cooking. When you cook for your family and the people you care about, it matters. You can feel it grow in your bones and you will naturally hold that healthy lifestyle and pass it on to other people.

    I am nobody, and I don't have a lot of money. But I love to cook and I am applying for a scholarship to study Culinary Arts and Food Safety in America. I haven't got the grant but I hope I will. I want to study what is right and wrong, I want to follow Jamie's footsteps and I want to participate actively in his program. I want to be inspired more. I want to use my youthful energy and my healthy food philosophy and help Jamie with the program. I want to return to my home country one day and empower people to know more about food. Indonesia is a country with a large population of poor people and they have not got any idea of what food is good to eat. We have the land, we have the soil, but we do not have the education. I am applying a scholarship to study in USA (because I believe I can learn so much from such an educated country) and that is how I'm fulfilling Jamie's wish.

    Wish me good luck in getting granted.
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      Mar 7 2011: Bernadette, I do wish you great luck! Your inspirations are noble and for you and those whose lives you touch I hope the grants come through.

      You don't have to be "anybody" to affect change in the meantime. Jaime has put out a lot of resources through his website, You can arm yourself with knowledge and review the toolkits to learn how you can take action as a student, parent, teacher, student, administrator, or community member! it takes champions from all directions to make these changes happen.
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        Mar 8 2011: Thank you so much, Adam, for the kind wishes.

        I agree with you and Jamie - every individual effort matters. But imagine what I can do if I have the knowledge I can share with everyone - just like what Jamie is doing. I am so glad you release funds to empower the improvement of gardening programs. People like make things happen.

        Good luck with your dedication! As an inspired person to another, I salute you.