Whole Story

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Challenging Authority for Good

While I am many years past high school stress and teenage angst, I do fondly remember my adolescent penchant for challenging authority. (Some may argue it never went away!) Around thirteen, the simplicity of childhood started to melt away and suddenly, I was a teenager, looking to discover who I was and how to change the world around me. Now, of course, no teenager wants their parents looking over their shoulder. Yet, in hindsight, I think there are subtle ways that parents can influence the direction of their teens’ world-changing missions. Making sure they are aware of the many issues surrounding our food supply is an excellent place to start – and one where they can take action by voting with their fork three times a day. Today, we have more media unveiling the truths behind the Standard American Diet, our over-consumptive consumer culture and our modern food system as a whole than ever before. To this end, we would like to offer you some ideas on how to bring home the message without having to personally be the preacher.

Bring books into your home.

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser examines the local and global influence of the United States fast food industry.  Also, check out Chew on This - it has very similar content to Fast Food Nation, but is written specifically for teens and kids. Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan is a 2006 non-fiction book that explores the question "What should we have for dinner?" To answer this question, Pollan follows four meals, each derived through a different food production system, from their origins to the plate.  Also, check out In Defense of Food, Pollan's follow-up to the Omnivore's Dilemma. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver is part memoir, part journalistic investigation.  This book tells the story of how her family was changed by one year of deliberately eating food produced in the place where they live. Don't Eat This Book: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America by Morgan Spurlock is a fact-packed and funny offshoot of his Oscar-nominated documentary Super Size Me.

Have a family movie night.

SuperSize Me follows filmmaker, Morgan Spurlock who makes himself a test subject in this documentary about the commercial food industry. Rigorously eating a diet of McDonald's fast food three times a day for a month straight, Spurlock is out to prove the physical and mental effects of consuming fast food. (You can watch this movie for free on YouTube here.) Fast Food Nation is dramatic feature based on material from the incendiary book Fast Food Nation, a no-holds-barred exploration of the fast food industry that ultimately revealed the dark side of the "All American Meal." (Note: This movie is rated R, so use your discretion.) Food, Inc is an unflattering look inside America's corporate controlled food industry. King Corn tells the story of two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation.

Send them links to online videos.

Mark Bittman talks what's wrong with what we eat | TED Talk Ann Cooper talks school lunches | TED Talk Michael Pollan gives a plant's eye view | TED Talk Dean Ornish on the world's killer diet | TED Talk The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard

Encourage them to take action.

Now that you've got them all riled up, give them some suggestions as to where to focus all that revolutionary energy. Take Part Social Action Network offers resources to take part in over 119 global issues ranging from climate change to organic foods to clean water. The Ocean Conservancy is hosting their annual International Coastal Cleanup on September 19th at a waterway near you.  Last year, nearly 400,000 volunteers collected more than 6.8 million pounds of trash in 100 countries and 42 US states during the 2008 International Coastal Cleanup — the world's largest volunteer effort of its kind. Teens Turning Green is a national movement of youth transforming the world by investigating and eliminating toxic exposures in daily lives, schools and communities, advocating for change in policy and habits to protect our health, and educating peers and the community about greener alternatives. Got any great resources or ideas to share with other parents for how to positively influence their kids?  Please leave a comment with your thoughts.  Thanks and good luck!

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Andy and Cheryl Anderson says …

We read In defense of Food. Pollan made some good points... Another book we found helpful and scary was: Genetically Engineered Food: Changing the Nature of Nature Author: Martin Teitel Ph.D. ISBN: 0892819480 Another book that we feel should be required reading for every high school senior is... Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front Author: Joel Salatin ISBN: 0963810952 This book shows how dirty the USDA can be: Mad Sheep: The True Story Behind the USDA's War on a Family Farm Author: Linda Faillace ISBN: 1933392762 As a side note, I wish you would put in a store closer to us! Somewhere down in Pierce County, Washington would be really nice!

denise petersen says …

zowie, this is a powerful post! michael pollan and mark bittman are my heroes! thank you for sharing these links, the time is NOW to change!

DJK says …

Let's not forget about Joel Salatin...