When Erica of Farm to Neighbors moved to Beijing, she started developing skin and health issues. She could hardly recognize herself in the mirror after living here for a year.
The doctor gave her a hard choice: take a strong drug with serious after-affects or start the paleo diet.
The paleo diet is based on the principles of only eating food our archaic ancestors could get on their own: meat and organic vegetables, essentially. Through the change in diet, Erica befriended a woman who supplied fresh produce for international schools. During the following summer break and in order to prevent the drop in trade her friend was experiencing, Erica organized a small sale in the hutong area, inviting all her friends to come. The idea became popular among other farmers, and that’s how the Farm to Neighbors weekend fair was born.
The mission of the Farm to Neighbors team is to educate the masses about food, with further sustainable and nourishing lifestyle to every body and mind. Changing people’s conception and habits of eating is challenging, but is also crucial now for both human and environmental well being. The example of Jamie Oliver, who went through enormous challenges while implementing his Food Revolution project, became very inspiring to Erica.
Food Revolution is the name of a project started by world-famous UK chef Jamie Oliver, the goal of which is to provide children with healthy nourishment instead of junk snacks, and an understanding of food culture. Jamie started this campaign a year ago together with launching the TV show of the same name. He went around U.S. and U.K. schools, persuading students, their families, and staff of the importance of the right eating habits, proving it with data about childhood obesity. The results were satisfying – he managed to change the dining menu of schools visited and draw public attention to that problem in other countries. However, Western and Asian approaches are not the same, and China needs to find its specific way to healthy food.
With this vision in mind, Erica set up the first volunteer meeting, which took place last Friday, May 20. Everyone who came went through a selection process proving interest and potential benefit added to the campaign. The volunteers included chefs, restaurant owners, farmers, a yoga instructor, an international law specialist, software developers, a graphic designer, and an international school professor.
As Erica and her team members shared their interest in Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution project, they agreed to follow its main principles and ideas, along with adapting to Chinese traditions for greater impact in Beijing.
Everyone who came had to go through a selection process proving interest and potential benefit can be brought to the campaign. So, there were representatives from food industry: chefs, restaurant owners, farmers; a yoga instructor, an international law specialist, software developers and a graphic designer, and an international school professor.
While discussing Beijing’s food culture, they mentioned that “healthy food” sounds boring and unattractive to children – which comes from their parents, who don’t have a real understanding of what “healthy food” means. Another key issue is that there’s no guarantee of observance of basic sanitary norms in many street food stands. People also have no trust in“green food” producers. The hardest issue is that “healthy eating”is considered to only be applicable to wealthy citizens.
After this discussion, Erica gave everyone feedback on what was already done in order to promote Food Revolution. One of the first things was a translation of Jamie Oliver’s song to Chinese. It is much harder with the top ten recipes, which are wide known in the West. These are simple, tasty and nutritious food recipes that are a must-know for each family and are enough to set up a healthy and varied diet. However, they won’t be popular in China due to the food culture difference.
So the main objective for the Food Revolution volunteer team is to create analogs to these recipes that will find a positive feedback among Chinese citizens. “It can all be summed up into 3 sentences: ‘Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’
“And traditional Chinese recipes are just what we need,” commented Jamie, a chef. “They include specific sauces and a special way of vegetable preparation, adding a unique taste and aroma to every dish.”
During the brainstorming, a few other good ideas arose. Sharing days of healthy lunch preparation with your colleagues, for example, is not time-consuming. Or a good way of making others think of what they eat can be a so-called “mindful yoga session” where one is taught to distinguish the taste of every piece of food chewed.
The strong side of the Food Revolution activist team is that they all have a great passion for what they are doing and a vigorous desire to spread healthy food thinking around. The future plans include attracting more interested people. They hope to attract young families, students looking for inspiration for their school projects, and all busy people who have little time to think about their health.The team plans to hold a Food Revolution meeting every month. Those who feel enthusiastic about joining the project and would like to attend future meetings, can contact Erica directly by WeChat or telephone (18600116714).