BlogHer Food Interviews: Let's Talk Food Ethics & Action with Vani Hari and Jessie Johnson
With BlogHer Food '14 on the not-too-distant horizon, we are thrilled to start bringing you interviews with our amazing speakers. We do this for a few reasons. It helps attendees make decisions on which panels might be the best fit for them. It lets our attendees and readers who can't attend learn bits and pieces about topics they might not be familiar while introducing them to bloggers and speakers they might not (yet) know. It allows us to feature these amazing panelists, giving them the spotlight they deserve. It creates a conversation around important topics, and allows attendees the ability to come up with questions ahead of time. And on and on, really. It's one of my favorite things about gearing up for the conferences!
This week we're talking with two members of the panel, Turning Food Ethics into Action. The panel itself Vani Hari is a food activist and blogger, running the popular site FoodBabe. Jessie Johnson is also a food blogger at Life As A Strawberry and the founder of Sustainable Seafood Blog Project. I asked them both questions about their personal journeys with food, ethics, and action to give you a better glimpse into who they are and what might be discussed during the panel.
You’re speaking on “Turning Food Ethics into Action” panel: Can you give us a little insight as to where you’re coming from on this topic? Where you started and your journey with food ethics?
Vani: I began my food journey like most people by following the standard American diet. As a successful management consultant, I was either in the office eating whatever take-out was brought in or I was on the road eating every meal out. Although this lifestyle allowed me to fit in with my peers and work crazy hours, it also took a huge toll on my body and I became very ill. Over the holiday season nearly ten years ago, I found myself in a hospital bed. I was sick, overweight, and I was ready to change! I made a promise to myself from that point on that I was going to make myself my number one priority. FoodBabe.com was born from my years of teaching myself how to live a healthy lifestyle and from investigating the crazy chemicals that are put into the food system. As I learned more about the habits needed for a healthy lifestyle and what dangerous ingredients to avoid, my friends and family begged me to start a blog in order to share everything I had uncovered. Over the past three years, FoodBabe.com has grown to have a following of over 4 million inspired individuals who are seeking to lead heather lives and rid our food system of deadly ingredients. It is through the help of the entire Food Babe Army that the investigations and petitions on FoodBabe.com have been able to force some of the largest food corporations to change, including Kraft, Chick-fil-a, Chipotle, and Subway.
Jessie: Professional foodies run in my family, and I grew up in the kitchen with my mom, a caterer, who also ran a non-profit that helped address food insecurity in our hometown. I've been involved with food ethics in one way or another my entire life, whether it's sorting potatoes at a food bank, organizing non-profit fundraisers and events, or throwing myself into my food-related academic work. Currently, I run my blog, Life As A Strawberry, but I also manage The Sustainable Seafood Blog Project and am a full-time graduate student in Public Administration at Cornell University, where my research focuses on home cooking, food security, and sustainable food systems.
If you could only tell readers or panel attendees one thing about turning those food ethics into action, what would it be?
Vani: I encourage anyone looking to change the quality of the food around them to vote with their dollar. Every time you purchase a product, you are sending a message to the manufacturer that says “I support what you are doing.” When we all vote with our dollars we not only help strengthen the companies that are doing the right thing by supplying heathy and sustainably grown food, but we also send a clear message of disapproval to those companies who are putting harmful products into the marketplace. One of the fastest ways to get a company to change is to effect their sales and profit. Companies feel the impact of our opinions when we stop financially supporting their products. When we vote with our dollar we actively shape the marketplace around us by sending a clear message of what we want. Food companies have no choice but to fill the demand we create with our purchases if they wish to continue doing business.
Jessie: The best advice I can give to someone who wants to turn their food ethics into action is to really do your research. Starting anything from scratch—as I'm sure every food blogger knows—is incredibly hard work, and it takes a lot of persistence and dedication to build a successful blog or program or organization. Look around at others who are doing similar work, and take notes on what they're doing well. Read everything you can get your hands on about the topic(s) you're pursuing—you'll be better prepared to talk about your project or pitch your idea, and you'll have a better sense of what needs to be done to be successful.
I love these answers! So inspiring, so real.
If you want to get to know Vani more, you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. Jessie can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Additionally, you can check out the Sustainable Seafood Blog Project on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
The panel itself promises to be an amazing and informative session:
As a food blogger, you know what passion means. You care about quality, taste, style, and beauty—but you also probably care about something else, be it maybe social good, environmental causes, the hunger gap, or health advocacy. If you've ever wondered how to turn the passion you hold dear into action—effectively integrate advocacy into your blogging routine, start your own movement or activist group, make a substancive change—this panel is for you.
Learn from bloggers who've taken their personal passions and turned them into action that's changed the lives of their family, their readers, their communities, and the world. Get a roadmap for rallying the troops, creating a stir, and make change that doesn't fall flat.
If you have any questions for the panelists ahead of time, feel free to leave them in the comments so that they can address them during your panel. We're looking forward to seeing you in Miami, so if you haven't registered, do so now!