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This week we had the chance to get to know PreventObesity.net Leader Anna Lappé, the founder of the Real Food Media Project, educator, advocate, philanthropist and mother of two girls. Anna has co-written and collaborated with other authors on numerous books, was named one of Time Magazine’s “Eco” Who’s Who and is an expert on food systems and sustainable food. Read on to learn more about Anna and how she practices what she preaches through her career and at home with her family.
Name: Anna Lappé
Organization: Real Food Media Project
What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?
I grew up with a mom who was committed to educating the world about the root causes of hunger (hint: it’s not a lack of food, it’s a lack of power). She was also a great cook: Not a gourmet, but someone who could take the simplest ingredients and make healthy, quick and delicious meals for my brother and me.
As I came into my own as an adult, I knew I too was curious about food and the crisis of diet-related illnesses, but I didn’t see this curiosity as a path for my own career until I wrote my first book with my mother, Hope’s Edge. Together, wetook a life-changing journey to communities around the world confronting – and solving – the root causes of hunger. Ever since, I’ve committed myself to being a part of the global movement to celebrate and catalyze sustainable food systems that work for everyone.
How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?
I wear several different hats: I’m an educator, advocate, philanthropist and mom. In all these ways I’m working to promote healthy people and a healthy planet. As an educator, I work in a number of different formats: I’ve written three books and contributed to ten others; I’ve hosted television shows and produced online videos; and I’ve also participated in more than four hundred public events in the past twelve years. Through my Small Planet Fund, I’ve raised and given away more than $1 million for grassroots changemakers fixing the food system. Since becoming a mom almost six years ago, I now find myself doing all this work from the perspective of a parent—being intimately aware of the life-and-death consequences of the changes we’re hoping to make.
What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?
Raising two strong girls who love kale and – though they indulge in the occasional cupcake – know what healthy food is and how to make it!
Who is your role model in your work?
I have many role models. There are so many amazing people who are part of the global movements to address the injustices in our food system. Certainly, one of my role models is the late Dr. Wangari Maathai, the passionate founder of the Kenya-based Green Belt Movement. When I met Wangari more than ten years ago, she had already helped to mobilize women across her country to plant millions of trees and embrace healthy kitchen gardens in their communities. She has since been honored with a Nobel Peace Prize for her work, making clear the connections between health, the environment and world peace.
What healthy snacks did you enjoy growing up?
Growing up, the closest thing to junk food in my house was rice crackers with peanut butter. In other words, all the snacks around were healthy. That’s one of (many) food lessons I’ve embraced now that I’m raising children of my own: We keep lots of healthy snacks around: cheese and crackers, crudité vegetables, frozen and fresh fruit and more. Yes, our kids sometimes have treats – homemade cookies or cupcakes at birthday parties – but we don’t have junkie snacks in the cupboard or the fridge to tempt us.
Each week, our own Prarthana Gurung speaks with a Leader to get a quick look at why he or she loves working to create healthy environments for kids. Want to take part? Visit Prarthana’s profile and contact her.