A blog post is long overdue.
Happy Mardi Gras!
Last I wrote was on National Dessert Day. Today is Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, which means that No Junk Food Day Tuesday stood little chance this week. In many countries, the day before the start of the Lenten season is celebrated by feasting on foods that are high in sugar, flour, fat - like pancakes, paczki (a polish jelly-filled doughnut), and king's cake. But in addition to being Pancakes Day and Paczki Day, this year, Fat Tuesday also coincided with National Pizza Day and National Bagel Day, which both fall on February 9. A perfect coincidence, no?
No matter how you celebrate Fat Tuesday, it is possible to incorporate some healthy NJFD dishes in the celebration, as I did today. And although in some cultures this day is about confession and repentance, do not repent any of the foods you chose to eat ... especially when celebrating a holiday actually called "Fat" Tuesday.
No Junk Food Day was born almost one year ago, and now that I'm bringing back the blog with this post, I think it's worth reflecting a bit on what NJFD accomplished in 2015.
Rewind back to January 2015. I had a flip phone. Need I say more? I was completely disconnected from the online world.
In February 2015, I got an iPhone (hello world and, more importantly, bus and google maps apps). I also volunteered at the Partnership for a Healthier America's Summit and met Michael Moss, author of Sugar Fat Salt, and Michelle Obama (well, I heard her speak and shook her hand - that counts as "meeting" - right?).
In March 2015, I decided the world needed to celebrate healthy eating, even if just for 1 day. In my online search for a National No Junk Food Day, I found a National Junk Food Day, National Doughnut Day, Pancakes Day, Blondie Day, Apple Pie Day, Pizza Day, Bagel Day, Dessert Day, Nutella Day, and basically a day for every sweet and savory food that exists. I felt called to immediate action. I declared March 30 International No Junk Food Day, which incidentally, shares the date with National Turkey Neck Soup Day. March 30 became the lucky date because it was the only day in March not already ascribed to celebrating an unhealthy food.
I quickly mobilized in March to set up this website, an instagram account, facebook page, twitter account, etc. In two weeks, I figured out how to use all these platforms and link them up, because I was new to ALL of them. I'm still trying to figure much of that out! I printed flyers and shared information about the day with friends and family, many of whom were very supportive of the effort. At first blush it seems to me that not much has been done in NJFD's first year. But actually, a lot happened last March and since then.
In the week before March 30, NJFD created cartoon characters with the help of a talented artist and friend, and took them to a bilingual school in North Carolina, where a teacher (also friend) taught a whole bilingual lesson about healthy eating for No Junk Food Day. The kids drew posters to promote the day in their school, and they knew to decipher between healthy and unhealthy foods. There was real movement in NC on NJFD!! :) A group of us also informed people of International NJFD by handing out bananas and flyers in Farragut Square in Washington, D.C.
March 30 came and went - and it was great to see people react so positively to the idea of eating healthy foods for 1 day. At the same time, some people reacted viscerally to the very thought of living without their comfort foods - even for just one day. However, NJFD isn't just about deprivation - it's mostly about exploration and opening yourself up to new possibilities by trying new foods that are both delicious and healthy. NJFD is also about reflecting on what foods are healthy/unhealthy to you, and comparing that with what is healthy/unhealthy to others - without imposing any judgment or unnecessarily labeling different approaches "right" or "wrong".
In April 2015, I learned that my aunt, who suffered from diabetes, was terminally ill and we lost her in late July. At that point, NJFD began promoting diabetes awareness and it inspired other people to join in that discussion as well.
In June 2015, after learning a bit about the nutrients women need postpartum, NJFD created a box of treats filled with omega3s, fiber, folic acid, and other essential nutrients that support women bodies through breastfeeding. The box was sent to the newest mother in our family.
In September 2015, NJFD introduced NJFD Tuesdays, which serves as an opportunity to eat healthy and mindfully (at least) once in the week. Through its Instagram account, NJFD has served as a platform that talks about food. There is a lot more work I would like to see NJFD do, and I look forward to working together with more like-minded people to draw attention to important food issues that affect all people worldwide.
NJFD connected with great people in 2015, like photographer Marko Dušak, who generously shared his Hungry Foodography photographs to brighten NJFD's web pages, and chef José Andrés, who promoted NJFD 2015 on Twitter. We have also been lucky to hear from many people who say they have changed their eating habits and felt great because of what they read on NJFD. It is equally satisfying to hear people say that they enjoy the NJFD Instagram and Facebook posts, or have been inspired to change their regular eating habits because of them.
And so, although it feels like not much has been done, in fact, attention has been drawn to healthy foods (even if just in a small and exclusive network of friends and family!). However, the discussion isn't meant to point to an easy "fix" to health and food. There is no such thing. Different people have different needs and to me, it's important to keep in mind that, when it comes to food, not everyone has the same resources, access, or even personal preferences. At the same time, we all stand a lot to gain from learning about food and trying something new. Few things challenge your body and taste buds more than experiencing a new food or dish. And the experience opens you up to more new foods, dishes, people, and experiences.
2016 - New Year New Possibilities
The New Year has begun worldwide from east to west - Happy Chinese New Year (Feb 8)!! The year of the monkey brought with it new foods in our household. We tried Shanghai nian gao (a rice cake dish) for the first time, and it was fantastic. But for purposes of NJFD, what would I like to see in this New Year?
NJFD talked with Chef Jose Andres via Twitter and the plan this year is to host an event at his Beefsteak Veggies Restaurant on March 30 or thereabouts to celebrate NJFD. I ate at the restaurant last week for the first time and I was super impressed by how well the food is prepared. In fact, the food is so healthy that friends who joined me for lunch had to search for dessert elsewhere because the sweet options at Beefsteak consisted of fresh fruit and fruit juices. No question that Beefsteak Veggies is the real healthy deal, and I'm really excited about partnering with them to celebrate NJFD this year!
Other plans in the mix include - informing Michelle Obama about i-NJFD this year; launching videos about food/healthy eating; drawing more attention to worldwide, national and local food issues; fundraising for health/food related causes; and promoting NJFD in more schools. There are infinite possibilities, and I look forward to making them happen. If you are interested in helping me promote healthy eating awareness, please do not hesitate to contact me through email@example.com --
I will sum up the beauty of NJFD in a few sentences here. No matter the financial resources or limited time available to you, where there is knowledge, there is power. We stand a lot to gain from embracing our cultural differences and personal preferences, while - at the same time - learning from one another and pushing our personal boundaries to try new dishes and foods, all within our own financial means and without judgment.
Let's support, encourage, and empower each other to eat well in 2016 through NJFD!