It often feels like the battle to improve American diets is never-ending. To bring major social change in food takes millions of activists from the mom at preschool to researchers to inspired corporate executives to move the needle. Collectively, we are having success and it’s time to take a minute to recognize that and gain inspiration for 2016.
Neilson data shows sugar purchases are down nearly 5% from 2011-2014. That may sound small, but it’s monumental in social change metrics. And, that isn’t the only success to report. It’s important to celebrate at each step to encourage us to keep up the work, so let’s celebrate the top 10 achievements of 2015.
[Thank you to my major source, Casey Hinds, for her recent article highlighting the best food victories of 2015 in Beyond Chron.]
- UCSF Researchers lead by Dr. Robert Lustig report https://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT01200043 significant improvement in metabolic syndrome markers like blood pressure and blood sugar levels even after a very brief period (ten days) of eliminating sugar from children’s diets. Look for more from these committed researchers.
- Vermont passes right to know legislation for mandatory labeling of products containing GMOs, let’s hope it’s the start of a trend.
- Antibiotic overuse starts a downward trend as McDonald’s, Subway, Wendy’s and Papa John’s join the effort to decrease antibiotic usage in the meat they purchase. The fastest change will come from the food industry.
- The documentary Sugar Coated airs and educates millions on the tactics of the sugar industry to addict its customers and thwart attempts to warn the public to the negative health impacts of excessive sugar consumption.
- San Francisco State University students takes on its administration and forces them to get out of a pouring rights contract with big soda. Could this signal the start of a youth advocacy movement?
- American Academy of Pediatrics passes a resolution to end its alliance with Monsanto and Coca-Cola and, after much public pressure, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics took the “Kids Eat Right” seal off Kraft Singles. Once you recover from the shock that either was happening, this feels like a big victory.
- New York Times and Denver Post reporters Anahad O’Connor and Candice Choi break a story revealing Coca-Cola’s funding of the Global Energy Balance Network scientists, whose scientist’s job was to downplay “bad diets” as a cause of obesity. In an unrelated event, Coca-Cola also releases information about its grant giving track record, showing historical funding of major health organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and American Cancer Society. Let’s work for more transparency in 2016.
- McDonalds is called to the carpet on several tactics. An open letter was sent to McDonalds by unions and groups of 3 million teachers protesting “McTeacher Nights” at schools. In addition, the Today Show invited Bettina Siegel to address the public–she gathered support from 80,000 people to protest McDonald’s “540 meals” school outreach program that advertised the fast food giant to school children. Social media is powerful in this movement.
- Golden State Warrior’s famed basketball megastar and roll model Stephen Curry could have had lucrative deals with Coca-Cola and Pepsi but endorses Brita water filtration brand instead, saying, “Water is my drink.” Could I like this guy any more?
- The nonprofit School Nutrition Association is exposed publicly for its focus on protecting the processed and big food industries over the health of children by San Francisco advocate Dana Waldow. I hope she keeps the pressure on. It takes a LOT of public exposure to convince these national organizations to restructure their funding and priorities. Just ask Michele Simon, an amazingly effective advocate who called out the anti-hunger organization the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) for being funded and influenced by big food like Pepsi, which FRAC has–for all public knowledge–ignored completely.
Colleen Kavanagh is the Exective Director of A Better Course www.abettercourse.org, a nonprofit improving nutrition and food transparency and safety for kids, and the CEO of ZEGO, a company dedicated to bringing transparency to the food movement and designing convenient superfood products safe for people with multiple food restrictions.