Whether you are packing a lunch for school, work, travel, or picnic, my guest Sandra Ann Harris, California eco-mom and Founder of ECOLunchbox, can tell you how to pack it without plastic. Her food containers are plastic-free, waster-free, BPA-free, PVC-free, and petroleum-free. We’ll talk about the toxic chemicals in standard lunch boxes, utensils, containers, and wrappings, and explore the many toxic-free options for carrying your own nutritious, delicious, organic lunch. Sandra started ECOLunchbox to empower families with non-toxic lunchtime tools to help them learn to reduce their dependence on plastics. Scientists are learning more everyday about the health and environmental hazards of toxins in plastics. ECOlunchbox’s mission is to offer lunchware alternatives that are healthy for both people and our planet. www.debralynndadd.com/debras-list/ecolunchbox
TOXIC FREE TALK RADIO
Packing a Lunch Without Plastic
Host: Debra Lynn Dadd
Guest: Sandra Ann Harris
Date of Broadcast: August 29, 2013
DEBRA: Hi, I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And this is Toxic Free Talk Radio where we talk about how to thrive in a toxic world. And we need to talk about this because there are toxic chemicals out there. But we don’t have to have them in our homes. We don’t have to have them in our bodies. It’s our choice.
And so, on this show, I and my many wonderful guests talk about how you can live a toxic-free life, so that you can be healthy, happy and productive and do whatever you want with your life.
Today, we’re going to be talking about how to pack your lunch. Whether you’re taking your lunch to school, work, travel, a picnic or any place else, you can carry your lunch without plastic.
And my guest today is Sandra Ann Harris. She’s a California ECO mom and founder of ECO Lunch Box. Hi, Sandra! Thanks for being with me.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Hi, it’s great to join you today.
DEBRA: Thank you! Okay. Well, first, let’s start off and hear your story. How did you start this business? Why is this important to you?
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: I set out to be in consumer products. My background is journalism and humanitarian aid. But when my son went off to preschool, and I started packing a lunch for him day in and day out, it became really apparent very, very quickly that I wasn’t making the best choices for him or for the planet.
Every day, he’d come home with his lunch box with Ziploc bags, with half eaten sandwiches and little individual yogurt cups with the yogurt spilling out and all sorts of other waste that went directly into my trash can. This was about 10 years ago.
But when I wanted to make a better choice and not have things and throwaways and try to avoid plastics, I went out to the marketplace, and I just couldn’t find what I needed.
DEBRA: Exactly! I remember 10 years ago, they didn’t have anything like what you’re talking about on your site. So, go ahead.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: So, exactly. I mean, now, I think many of your listeners probably have seen stainless steel containers online for sure and maybe even in their local markets. But at this time, people were using stainless steel water bottles like by Clean Canteen. But all of the containers that were available were plastic.
So, I just decided that I wanted to make available a product that was plastic-free for my own kids because I was really concerned about the toxins and plastics. Nalgene around that time was recalled—Nalgene! I’ve always loved that brand. I’m a backpacker and an environmentalist. I had tents and Nalgenes throughout the house. And I really trusted that brand. But lo, and behold, there was this thing called BPA, bisphenol-A which we now know is a hormone mimicker. It creates kind of a synthetic estrogen in our body.
And so, they had recalled all of the Nalgene. And I thought, “My goodness! If this trusted brand is struggling with how to put a safe product made out of plastic on the market, what plastic really is safe?”
So, I called Sigg, the maker of the aluminum water bottles. It’s a Swiss company. And I said, “Hey, Sigg, what’s that lining on the inside of your water bottles?” It says that it’s proprietary. “Can you tell me more about it?” Well, they wouldn’t. It was some kind of a petroleum-based plastic resin that they were using.
And the more questions I asked, the more I realized I wasn’t getting answers about plastics that made me feel comfortable, answers that I could understand.
DEBRA: Yes. So, what made you decide? I mean, I think probably a lot of women, a lot of moms, are looking at the plastic bags and saying, “Well, gee, I’m questioning this plastic,” but then they don’t do anything.
What was it within you that made you say, “I’m going to do something about this and help change the world and make these non-plastic items available to other moms and children”?
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Well, as a mother, I think that the first thing that I have to do with my children is make sure that they’re healthy. And then, I have to be sure that they’re safe.
DEBRA: Good for you!
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: And then, I have to educate them. But if they’re not healthy, if I’m not doing the best I can to protect them against toxins that I’m aware about—there are probably tons of stuff out there that I’m not even aware about yet. If I’m not keeping them healthy, then all the other layers of parenting that we work so hard at become kind of futile.
The thing about these chemicals and plastics and all sorts of other consumer products is there’s a lot more information out there behind the curtain in the board rooms than we’re really aware of. And even at the national level, in terms of health and safety regulators who oversee these things, they knew about BPA, bisphenol-A; and then, there’s pthlalates which are used to make plastics, very squeezy. The BPA is used to make the plastics more rigid and often transparent. They’ve known for 70 years that it’s a very questionable choice to include those chemicals in our plastics.
So then some of your listeners probably have noticed there are all sorts of plastics out there that say, “We’re BPA-free. It’s safe! You can use this plastic.” Well, I’d be very cautious about using plastic at all.
What’s been happening is that BPA has been substituted for BPS, a bisphenol substitute, which has many of the same properties and may even be more toxic. It’s just hard for regulators—and for moms—to keep up with the latest regarding the science behind plastic.
We’re not scientists. I don’t have a full time job studying toxicity. So I just want to make simple choices that are tried and true.
And I think stainless steel, true containers, with no coating or no mixed media or plastic, just straight up stainless steel, it’s non-reactive, it’s non-leeching. I haven’t heard anything about it that makes me concerned.
And then, we offer a line of artisan cotton lunch bags and snack sacks that are machine wash and tumble dry. Again, no coating. It’s not a cotton that’s been covered with plastic, but is presenting itself as fabric.
Those kinds of mixed media, if you don’t understand what it is, I would just slow way down and just think about, “Okay, what’s in here?” And if I don’t know what’s in here, start asking questions.
DEBRA: Well, I totally agree with you. I just want to say something about regulations because, right now, one of the things that’s going on in our world is that there are a lot of people trying to change the regulations about toxic chemicals in Washington DC. And this has been going on for about 10 years.
We have a law right now called the Toxic Substances Control Act. And it’s called TSCA for short. And it’s been very interesting for me to watch what’s been going on kind of behind the scenes. And one of the big question is: “Well, what are the toxic chemicals?” There has to be this big proof to the government that the chemical is toxic before they can do something to regulate it.
And it’s interesting to see. I mean, I’m not saying that the people in the government are not intelligent. But you and I can look at this data about plastics, and we can say, “Well, I don’t want to have that for myself or my child.” But at the government—in some ways, I kind of want to defend them, but explain what’s going on. At the government level, it’s not just about an individual making a decision. It’s about individual senators and representatives and the president making decisions that are going to affect everybody in the country.
And so, if they’re going to say that something’s toxic, then there better be scientific evidence about this toxic chemical.
And I think, in some ways, that it’s even more difficult to establish what is a toxic chemical than it is for legislatures to make a decision to ban it or regulate it or whatever. That’s the hard part. If they get the science, we can see that regulations do go in.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Right!
DEBRA: We’re going to take a break. And then, we’ll go on talking about this more after the break.
I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. My guest today is Sandra Ann Harris from ECO Lunchbox.
And we’re talking about how to pack your lunch without plastic. We’ll be right back with more on that right after this.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is Sandra Ann Harris, founder of ECO Lunchbox. And you can go to her website at ECO Lunchboxes.com and see all the things that we’re talking about today on the show.
Sandra, you started to say something before I interrupted you. Do you want to continue with that thought?
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Yeah, I enjoyed hearing what you were saying, Debra, about the challenge that our national legislatures have in terms of passing laws to protect families against toxins. And what kept going through my mind as I was listening to you educate us about that is there’s this philosophy from the top that, really, chemicals, as well as people in our legal system, are innocent until proven guilty. And there’s all this burden put on our top lawmakers and elected leaders to prove these chemicals guilty; whereas I think it makes a lot more sense to put that on its head and say, “Hey, guys… hey, manufactures. If you want to introduce these chemicals into consumer products and expose our national population to whatever it is that you’re going to put in there, prove to us that it’s innocent. Prove to us it’s not going to be harmful.”
DEBRA: I totally understand what you’re saying! I totally understand what you’re saying. And I agree with you to a certain point. Having studied toxicology for 30 years—this is why I know this—is that it’s very difficult to prove a negative. You could prove something, like you could take a chemical and you could feed it to a hundred rats, and if all the rats died, then you could say, “Well, this is toxic, and we shouldn’t be feeding it to babies,” for example. It’s harder to prove that something is going to be safe for every single person and every single dose.
Yesterday, I was talking to a homeopathic consultant. And she was telling us that the dose makes all the difference, that you could take something very toxic and make it extremely, extremely dilute. And it will actually eliminate the symptoms of the toxic exposure.
But also, everybody has different sensitivities. And so one of the things that I’ve learned over the years is that when I—because as a consumer advocate, I’ve chosen to take responsibility for the position of saying, “This is toxic. Don’t use it. And this is okay. And it’s okay to use.”
Now, how do I make that decision? Well, I can’t take into consideration everybody’s individual sensitivities. What I can do is that I can go and look at scientific studies that say “this causes cancer” or “this affects the nervous system.” And there are many, many chemicals where that data is known. LIke you said at the beginning, they’ve known bisphenol-A was toxic for 70 years.
And that’s where I question if they know that it’s toxic, if they know fluoride is toxic, if they know formaldehyde causes cancer, why are they still allowing those chemicals to be in our products that are being sold?
That’s where it’s not a gray area if we know the toxic chemicals are toxic. There should be regulations against them.
There’s also something called the precautionary principle. And the precautionary principle says, “If there’s any reason to doubt”—any reason to doubt, it doesn’t have to be proven—“If there’s any reason to doubt, err on the side of good judgment and don’t do it.”
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: That really resonates with me. When it comes lunch time in particular, especially with a lot of moms working these days, our kids are at either public school a couple of hundred days a year packing a lunch or some kids are packing a lunch year round either at camps or daycare or whatever. And why not use the precautionary principle of avoiding plastics during that daily activity that happens hundreds and hundreds of times every year.
Now, exposure to plastic and other products in our cars and we’re breathing it in everywhere some of the staff we’re not going to be able to control but I like to approach things as you said with more of a precautionary approach kind of a drop in the bucket philosophy where I want yeah you know. If you can hear me how do we now that ever asked Paul I think I just lost my cats.
Now, incidental exposure to plastic and other products—in our cars—and we’re breathing it, everywhere, sometimes there’s stuff we’re not going to be able to control. But I like to approach things, as you said, with more of a precautionary approach, kind of a drops in the bucket velocity wherever I can.
DEBRA: Hello, I can’t hear you.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: You can’t hear me?
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Can you hear me now, Debra?
DEBRA: I think I just lost my guest?
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Hello, can you hear me? I hear you. Debra? Hello? I hear you. Hello?
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And we have a little technical difficult. Apparently, you lost me. I thought we were losing the guest. So Sandra, you’re still there, right?
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: I’m here. We’re back!
DEBRA: Okay, good. Wow! Well, sometimes, this is what happens on live radio, is the machines don’t work.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: I wasn’t aware I dropped out. But could you hear me when I was talking about my drops in the bucket philosophy?
DEBRA: No, please go ahead and say that again.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Okay! Right before we lost the call, Debra, you were sharing about the precautionary principle. And I was saying that that’s certainly how, as a mother, I approach toxins in our family life. And when it comes to lunch in particular, when you think about the hundreds of times every year that our kids are packing a lunch, all those drops in the bucket, why not just remove toxins both from the food as well as from the containers the best we can?
Are we going to ever eliminate our kids’ exposure to plastics and other toxins entirely. Of course not! But there are areas where we have control. And lunch time is certainly one of those.
So, when I started ECO Lunchbox, I was like, “Well, do I really want to start a consumer products company?” And I thought, “You know what? There’s a lot more to this than just providing a stainless steel lunchbox.”
This is a tool for change. This is a tool for education, both as kids and as parents in terms of valuing and proactively doing something to safeguard their own health as well as—and we haven’t even talked about this (this could be a whole other show)— our planet, all the plastics that get out there into the world, and they don’t biodegrade. And unfortunately, less than 1% of plastics are ever recycled. So whatever happens to the rest, the 99%? Somewhere in our environment…
DEBRA: It gets in a landfill somewhere or, you know, there’s an island forming in the Pacific made up of plastic trash.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Exactly! I mean, they call that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And I’ll warn your listeners, if you’re just thinking about a huge mountain floating out there, basically it’s just kind of plastic that’s floating in these dryers that swirl it all together. And they’re just little broken down pieces. Ultraviolet rays kind of break down big pieces of plastic into little rubbish. And the fish are eating it, and they’re not doing well—and the birds. It’s washing up on the Pacific Coast. And there are five gyres throughout the world where this is happening.
So, I felt like, you know, hey, I’m not really a consumer products person, I’m a change maker, I’m an educator. I mean, as I’ve said, I was a humanitarian aid worker. And there’s a lot I can do around providing this healthy tools for living in terms of helping people empower themselves—and most importantly, helping children every day make a positive step towards a healthier them and a healthier world.
DEBRA: Well, I’m so glad that you’re providing this because I want to make sure that you know that every little bit helps. And the reason that every little bit helps is plastic, in particular, is one of those substances that your body holds onto. I mean, it’s hard for it to process. And so, what ends up happening, what makes a toxic effect in the body is day in and day out exposure over and over and then having it build up in your body.
And so, if you’re eliminating the plastic exposure of lunchtime, if you’re eliminating the pesticides in lunch by serving organic food in these containers, then it’s that much less of what’s called body burden. That’s the official term for all the chemicals that are building up in your body , body burden.
And you know, I found that bisphenol-A, I researched about how long does bisphenol-A continue to stay in your body. And it turns out that your body will process it through in about three days. So all you have to do is stop eating or drinking bisphenol-A for three days, and it will be out of your body. It’s not something not something that accumulates.
Yet tests have shown that virtually all Americans are walking around with bisphenol-A in our bodies. So this is a worthwhile thing to do, very worthwhile.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Well, thank you for your encouragement.
DEBRA: You’re welcome.
DEBRA: Let’s start talking about your products. Just start at the beginning. I’m looking at your home page, and it’s great that you have them all here. And I especially love—let’s start with my favorite thing. This is not the containers. Sandra is going to tell you about that. But she’s got these beautiful bags. She’s got lunch bags, she’s got cloth napkins, she’s got a knapsack shoulder bag. These are all beautiful hand-printed artisan fabrics. And it’s a traditional Japanese design so you’re just basically taking a piece of cloth and knots up into a bag. And they’re so beautiful. So beautiful! So, I really wanted to just comment on that.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Yeah, the textiles are really the heart beat of the business. We source the textiles, fair trade, direct from the artisans. A dear friend of mine, she lived in India on a Fulbright Scholarship, studying the art of block printing. And these artisans going back a thousand years have carved wooden blocks and printed fabrics in the traditional way. And it’s an honor to have their fabric as a part of our line. And it just gives this feel-good factor.
And in addition to feeling good, it just makes the food taste better. Who wants to eat out of some beat-up old tupperware container. It may be reusable. But as we’ve talked about, plastic is a concern. It’s just not a very pleasant experience. Why not eat out of beautiful containers with colorful hand-blocked printed napkins.
And we have a couple of different purses that come with a reusable napkin. And then, we have the Furoshiki which you were mentioning, Debra. So, everyone have heard of bento boxes from Japan. Those words are just totally mainstream now.
But what we don’t hear about as much is, well, they weren’t just carrying their bento boxes in Japan in their hands. They were carrying them in Furoshiki which is a flat piece of textile that can be twisted and tied and knotted in all sorts of fun and clever and creative ways or just simply. Just tie it up around your bento, your ECO lunchbox. And then, when you get where you’re going, you can untie it, and you have like a little place mat where you can put your fruit out, put your role, whatever it is.
DEBRA: This is so wonderful!
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: And you can have a nice experience eating your lunch.
DEBRA: And I see in the picture that it folds up. You can fold it up and put it in your purse. And you could…
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Absolutely!
DEBRA: I used to have a folding bag, a reusable bag, that came in a little pouch. And I always had the little pouch. But this is so beautiful. It’s a beautiful piece of cloth. You can fold it up, and put it in your purse. And then you always have a reusable bag.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Absolutely, yeah. There’s something really satisfying about rolling back the clock and looking behind us and time for traditional solutions that have worked for generations. We really don’t need all these high-tech insulated new stuff that you see on the shelves of the big box retailers. Something as simple as a stainless steel food container—
And we have some really cute Bento style ones with nesting containers. And there’s definitely a fun factor. They sparkle, but it’s traditional. It’s is what people in India and China and many other parts of the world have successfully used for a couple of hundred years. And they’re still using these tools. So, I’m just so happy to make them available here in the United States where a lot of people think it’s a “new idea.” No, it’s not!
DEBRA: No, it’s not a new idea. That was one of the first things that I did 30 years ago when I started researching what can I use that’s not toxic. The first thing I did was I started looking at the past. If you just roll back time 200 years, you don’t have any of these toxic chemicals. I mean, not that there were no toxic chemicals. I had a toxicologist on a couple weeks ago where he was talking about toxic chemicals go back to the beginning of time, to ancient times. But the overwhelming preponderance of toxic chemicals you didn’t have 150 years ago. And there were clever ways to use things. And this is just a beautiful tradition.
I want to ask you a question because this is a shopping question. And some of the listeners might have this question when they go to your site.
I see you have several different sizes of these bags. And so you have—oh, wait! Maybe this is a kit, the Furoshiki ECO Snack Sack Kit. So, that has just the regular Furoshiki plus the other things in the kit. So that’s one size. And then, the other size is the lunch wrap. And then, you have a lunch bag. I’m a little confused.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Yeah, thanks for asking.
So, some of our items we sell in kits, and what I mean by that is we offer a stainless steel container with a bag or a snack pack. I think one of the items that you were mentioning is one of my favorites. It’s our ECO Snack Sack which is Furoshiki style. So, it’s a snack sack that’s 100% cotton. Again, no plastic coating. And I chose not to do mix media, not to add velcro, not to add a zipper, not to add anything because the recyclability of the snack sack, if it were to reach end of life, is much higher if it’s just 100% cotton. There’s a good market for recycled cotton. And I didn’t want to introduce a known toxin. Why not just tie it closed, which works great for moms that have kids that are in a stroller and wanting to snack on their little goodies.
You just tie it to the bar in front so you don’t have your little one throwing their snacks sack overboard. I don’t know if any of you out there have had that experience. But it’s like, “Sweetie, what happened to your snack?” And they’re like, “Hee-hee-hee…” Back two blocks, they’ve thrown it overboard.
This also works great on a bicycle or tied to a belt loop or a backpack if you’re out hiking. And then, you can either just put fruit right in there, or you can put a small water bottle in one of our stainless steel ECO zippers, which is a round stainless container with a stainless steel lid. Put some [unintelligible 27:09] in there. Put some fruits and cucumbers, whatever you want. It’s all plastic-free.
And when you sit down to eat that, and you’re calibrating what you’re eating, and the containers are sparkling, and the block-painted fabric is so colorful and beautiful, trust me, everything is going to taste better. It’s going to bring a smile.
DEBRA: I totally agree with you because I think that beauty has a lot to do with our experience of things. And that’s why I created a beautiful environment in my home. And I’m always looking at where can I find those natural materials that are going lend that extra, beautiful and useful. There’s no reason why things that are useful needs to be ugly. We can have that beauty factor there. And you’ve certainly done a great job with this.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Thank you, Debra.
DEBRA: We’ve got another break now. So, we’ll be back after this. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest is Sandra Ann Harris of ECO Lunchbox. And that’s ECOLunchboxes.com. We’ll be right back.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And my guest today is Sandra—argh, you would think I could remember her name by the time I get through the whole show.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Harris…
DEBRA: I got the standard part, Sandra Ann Harris.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: You got the most important part.
DEBRA: During the break, my windows on my computer got all mixed up.
…Sandra Ann Harris, founder of ECO Lunchbox. That’s at ECOLunchboxes.com. And we’re talking about packing a healthy lunch without plastic.
So, now that we’ve talked about all the wonderful things that you sell to carry the food in, let’s talk about healthy food for lunch.
What do you pack for lunches?
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Well, the first couple of years that I had ECO Lunchbox, I felt a lot of pressure to do cute little bentos for my kids. And then, I kind of realized, “Well, wait a minute! Why am I packing their lunch?” Learning to make good choices with your own food is a life skill that kids should be learning from a really young age.
And so, for the last few years, I’ve been coaching my kids on how to pack their lunch. And I always ask that they pack something that involves protein and two sides, at least one fruit or vegetable. And then I let them do it. You can’t send your kid off to college if they don’t even know how to pack their own lunch.
Again, lunch provides this opportunity for kids to take control, to chose which lunch box. And with the guidance of their parents and education, both at school and at home, I’m sure hopeful that they’re going to make a choice to pack into a lunchbox something that’s non-plastic and toxic-free. And then, it’s a constant back and forth between my kids and myself about what are they going to be packing in their lunch, and have they put it on the shopping list, and did they pack too much or too little.
But I really let them handle it.
Now, another rule of thumb in addition to coaching them to always pack and entrée that involves a protein. And then the two sides is the food needs to be safely kept at room temperature.
Over the years, it seems like Americans have developed this expectation that they should be able to pack pretty much anything—cut up things, wet things, leftover things. For people going off to the office, if they can bring some kind of a glass container and put it in the microwave—I know microwaves aren’t that great, but a lot of people like their food hot. Okay, fine!
I think kids need to pack things that aren’t going to go bad if they’ve been sitting out for a few hours—not butters, nut jerky, unless the lunch is packed with a water bottle that’s full of icy water that serves as a cold pack.
There’s no need to use the blue plastic, the little ice packs that we see all over in the big box retailers. If you want to pack something that needs a little extra coolness, you want to eat your yogurt a bit cool, put your water bottle in there with a whole bunch of ice, and you’re good for a couple of hours.
So, you have to be strategic and thoughtful about what to pack if you’re not going to be using, for example, thermoses that are plastic or mixed plastic with stainless steel or other plastic or synthetic containers. You have to kind of think it through.
DEBRA: Well, Sandra, you’re applying a principle that I very much appreciate and apply myself which is, instead of making everything that what you want to do like bring hot soup for lunch, and then we have to have a plastic thermos, it’s looking at what’s available and how can you best work with it in terms of non-toxic materials.
So, there are lunches that suite having stainless steel containers and cloth bags. But those are the materials that can be easily and safely and healthfully used. And we then enjoy that. We enjoy that because there’s a suitability and a harmony.
I forgot the name of them, but I’ve seen this several times on TV, that there’s a longstanding tradition in India where they have these guys that go to the homes and pick up the lunches and then deliver them to the workers.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: The tiffin wallahs.
DEBRA: The tiffin wallahs, yes. And it’s a longstanding tradition that that’s the way that they worked it out. Instead of using plastic, the tiffin wallahs go to the homes, and the wives and mothers prepare them healthy meals, and the tiffin wallahs take them to the workers.
There’s no fast food hamburger or anything like that. They’ve got good, healthy, home-cooked meals they’re carrying around in these little steel containers. It’s a traditional thing. And it’s just wonderful to have that viewpoint, that you’re just going to say like I say—I don’t say, “Well, here’s my recipe. I’m going to go to the grocery store and buy this ingredient from South America.”
I go to the farmers’ market and I say, “What’s at the farmers’ market?” and that dictates what I’m going to eat.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Yeah, what’s available in response to that.
DEBRA: What’s available and responsible, yeah. If our desires are not governed by advertising or the whim of the day, and we start seeing ourselves as integrated with all of life and having a responsibility for all of life and our participation in it and what the effect of our actions are, then it starts to become a joy to do the things that protect the rest of life.
I wasn’t born knowing what I’m about to say, but I realized it, that everything doesn’t come from the store. My mother used to always say, “There’s always more at the store,” but there isn’t. Beyond that, there’s the whole environment. And that’s where everything we eat, everything we buy, everything comes from, those resources. And if we don’t take care of those resources, we don’t have anything.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Absolutely, yeah. And I think feeling more connected to our food and encouraging children to feel more connected to what they’re eating will also provide great [aside] in terms of their health. I mean, you think about kids who are relying on energy bars that are just kind of grab-and-go, covered in plastic. What’s their experience by eating those bars?
Do they even know what’s in the bar?
DEBRA: Well, of course, they don’t.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Are they building skills to make healthy choices as they grow up, to eat fresh fruits and vegetables?
There’s a lot of Inclination especially I think among young people today not to take the time to really properly eat. I know there’s the whole slow food movement and local food. And we’re seeing a resurgence of interest around food over the last 10 years here in the San Francisco Bay Area. But by and large, it’s more about the hoity-toity thing that the adults do. And they still get these bulk bars and prepackaged snacks at the grocery stores. And they just kind of throw them in the pantry for their kids.
Why not take the time? Like today, my kids packed zucchini muffins with walnuts and [unintelligible 36:46]. My son has food allergies. And that’s their grab-and-go. So, I try to have some kind of a homemade baked goodie, either something I make myself or something either my son or my daughter makes as a substitute for some of those bars, something that’s packed with nutrition and that’s really easy. And then, today, we made homemade flat bread pizza last night. And they packed a couple of leftover slices of pizza and a piece of fruit. There you go!
DEBRA: What a fabulous mom you are. Oh, my God! Everything that you’re doing is totally aligned with what I think is the right thing to do. Those good food choices need to happen when children are children. They need to grow up with them.
While you were talking about kids eating snacks, I was remembering a time—I used to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was born in Oakland, California. I spent a lot of time there. And one of my favorite places to go is the farmers’ market at the ferry building.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Oh, yeah.
DEBRA: I just wish we had one here in Florida like that.
But anyway, I just remember one day just catching a glimpse of a baby, maybe two years old in a stroller, maybe one. But her father had just bought a basket of these gorgeous blueberries. And he was giving her these blueberries. And she just like put them up in her mouth and smeared them on her face. She had blueberry juice all over her face, and she had the most beaming smile that I have ever seen—the happiness of this baby eating blueberries.
And that’s the way I think we should be feeling about our really. And when I go to the store, I often will bring home food, and I’ll go, “What’s this?” It doesn’t even taste good, I mean even produce, because it’s traveled so far or whatever. And to be able to go to someplace like a farmer’s market like that and have that extraordinary produce that should be the norm everywhere, and see the happiness that that brings from eating…
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Yeah, like for older kids—my daughter is 10 now and my son is 13—I just give them $10 at the farmers’ market, and I’m like, “Any fruit or vegetable you want, go for it.” They’re like, “Seriously?!”
DEBRA: I was getting so excited talking to you, I didn’t watch the clock, but the show is over.
SANDRA ANN HARRIS: Oh…
DEBRA: This is Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. Thank you, Sandra. Bye!