1. Your name, title, and age? What do you do (or did you do) for a living?
Roxanne Lee, Entrepreneur, 32.
2. Who was the person that inspired you as a child to eat healthy and stay fit? What was their relationship to you?
I do not remember her name, but she was a counselor at my elementary school who took an interest in my eating habits. I was nine or ten years old and she offered to share some of her food while waiting for my mother to pick me up, but I took a look at her tupperware filled with elbow noodles and chopped vegetables and made a face. I was a very finicky eater because I was accustomed to eating fast food like McDonalds and KFC, so her homemade pasta salad with vegetables was not appealing. In retrospect she was trying to look out for me, but I did not realize it at the time.
3. What did they do to inspire you?
After I declined her kind offer, she gave me the usual speech about starving children in third world countries, but I brushed her off because I knew that my mother would arrive soon with McDonalds, or a slice of pizza, etc. I grew up eating cheap takeout because it was convenient, and I did not complain because I loved eating junk food. It was not until I was around thirteen or fourteen when I realized that my counselor tried to do an intervention, and honestly I felt embarrassed for having turned down her kind offer those many years earlier. I began taking matters into my own hands by buying grocery and making my own meals, which seemed counterproductive at first because cooking healthy meals is more expensive than cheap takeout, as well as time consuming, but I instantly started feeling more energetic, happier, healthier, slept better at night, and started doing better in school. It was at that point that I actually understood what it meant to eat healthily.
4. How did their lesson change your life?
Absolutely, her words have stuck with me throughout the years. I wish there was some way I could contact her and let her know that even though I did not appreciate her intervention at the time, she set into motion a life changing experience.
5. Do you convey their message to kids in your life presently?
I occasionally interact with kids at catered events through work who exhibit the same finicky behavior that I did, especially when it comes to vegetables. I think that kids are used to being coerced into eating things that they dislike, so I take another approach by trying to compromise. For example, a kid recently bypassed the glazed carrots that were available to guests, so I ran to the kitchen and asked the Chef for some raw baby carrots, which the kid snapped up right away. Also I volunteer with the local food bank mobile market to redistribute fresh fruits and vegetables to under-served communities, and the kids who attend these mobile markets with their parents are usually wide eyed and curious. I remember one specific mobile market where we had acorn squash available, and many of the kids had never seen acorn squash before, so I felt like we were playing a game of 20 questions because they wanted to know where it came from, what it tastes like, how to cook it, etc. I think that kids have a natural curiosity for healthy food, but bad experiences dictate their reluctance to eat right and try new things. A good example is Brussels sprouts, which can be amazing if done right.
6. What would be your main message to children today to lead healthy lifestyles?
Try to create an interactive experience with your food, and perhaps take the matter of food preparation into your own hands. It could be a fun time to experiment and play with your food while spending quality time with friends and family. If you have a backyard, grow some veggies and herbs. If you don’t have a backyard, research into local community gardens and cooperatives. Once kids become more involved in the kitchen, they will inadvertently learn about science, history, and culture, all while exercising math skills, which could be a great gateway into open communication in the household and connecting to local communities. Also I would advise kids to exercise regularly, join a sports team, hike, ride a bike, whatever gets them out of the house.
7. Do you have a web site you would like to promote….web address only?