As TEDxManhattan approaches, we’ve asked this year’s speakers to introduce themselves by answering a few questions. Today we feature national bestselling author Anna Lappé, a founding principal of the Small Planet Institute.
Join Anna on a special TEDxManhattan Twitter chat on Jan. 24 at 4 pm! We’ll be using the hashtag #TEDxMan.
1) What’s the topic you’ll be speaking about?
I’m going to be talking about the 2 billion dollars spent every year by the food industry to hook kids and teens on high-fat, high-salt, high-cholesterol foods–and what we can do about it.
Consider that the Corn Refiners Association (makers of high-fructose corn syrup) spent as much as $20 million in 2008 in a public relations campaign about the “natural goodness” of HFCS, including television ads aimed at moms. To put that in perspective, that’s nine times more than what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allocated that year for its entire 5-a-Day fruit and vegetable promotion program.
In this talk, I’m taking on the myth that those of us promoting broccoli and bananas are “food nannies” and that the growth in fast food is just a reflection of what consumers really want: I want to show just how much the food industry constructs demand and how, when given a real choice, kids, teens–all of us really–gravitate toward health and good nutrition–and broccoli.
2) Why do you feel this is important?
As a mom to two sprouting daughters who seem to eat their weight in food every day, I constantly think about the messages they’re getting about what foods are good for them. I’m up against a multi-billion dollar business–and some of the highest paid minds in advertising. A tall task. Luckily, there is a movement of people working to get the word out about what healthy food really looks like (hint: It’s not wrapped in a SpongeBob package) and protecting our kids from the most egregious marketing. Emerging across the country there are great examples of communities, kids, and teens spreading the good food gospel and promoting the kinds of policy changes that are transforming our food landscape.
3) Are there other projects you’re also passionate about right now?
Yes, getting passionate about the food marketing messages is part of my bigger passion project: exploring the big questions we have about our food and some of the biggest myths about sustainable food. I’m working on a series of “mythbusting” videos, the most recent one taking on the myth that we need GMOs, chemicals, and synthetic fertilizer to grow enough food to feed the world.
4) Which other TEDxManhattan speakers are you excited about hearing?
All of them. Seriously. This will be my first TEDx in the audience–so I’m excited to be there for it live–and so that someone other than my kids can hear it when I applaud.
I’m especially excited to see Ann Cooper–she is always a dynamo. If only she could bottle her energy and share it with the rest of us! I’m also excited to hear Gary Hirschberg speak. I saw him talk about GMOs on Bill Maher and it was the single best segment I’d ever seen on the issue–and hilariously funny
Anna Lappé is a national bestselling author and a founding principal of the Small Planet Institute and Small Planet Fund. Anna’s most recent book is Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It, named by Booklist and Kirkus as one of the best environmental books of the year. She is the co-author of Hope’s Edge, which chronicles social movements fighting hunger around the world, and Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen, with seasonal menus by chef Bryant Terry. A popular educator about sustainable food and farming, Anna has participated in hundreds of events, from hosting community dinners to delivering university keynotes to emceeing a food-focused fundraiser at Sotheby’s. She is currently the director of the Real Food Media Project, a new series of myth-busting videos about the real story of our food.
Change Food is a nonprofit whose mission is to connect and transform the food we eat, the people who produce it, and the world in which it is grown. To read and learn more, visit The Guide to Good Food blog.